HG Alert: Facebook introduces personalised URLs - Jun 2009

From this weekend, Facebook’s 200 million users will be able to customise their profile URLs using actual names, rather than just the random URL identification numbers currently used.

Users will be able to register personal URLs such as on a first-come, first-served basis. Facebook says that this initiative aims to help friends and family easily identify each other through its network and Internet search engines such as Google.

This new form of identification should attract a large number of businesses, who will make the most of the opportunity to enhance their presence in the social network by registering URLs that name their brands. However, it also raises concerns with respect to trade mark infringement, as anyone will be able to register URLs using well-known brands. A new source of cyber squatting may be on the rise.

In an attempt to accommodate the concerns of intellectual property rights holders, Facebook will allow registered trade mark owners to reserve their trade marks by completing a trade mark protection form available on their blog. It’s not clear whether this measure will successfully prevent trade mark squatting, but it will certainly reduce Facebook’s potential liability for trade mark infringement. Whether this alone will be enough to avoid liability remains to be seen.

In order to stop squatters from surreptitiously misappropriating their valuable brands, businesses should move quickly and take steps to ensure that their trade marks are protected in the social network.

From 12:01am (US EDT) on 13 June 2009, the new URLs will be available for registration.Click here to register a trade mark protection form.

For more information about brand protection, please contact HopgoodGanim’s Technology, Intellectual Property and Outsourcing team.