When I first retired from my utter misues of Twitter (it was all the rage!), I did so by politely bidding farewell to my 500 or so “followers” and then scattering the whole cloud of them by canceling my Twitter account.
I then counted to five… and quickly re-registered for Twitter using the same name. I now use Twitter relatively passively, mainly as a way to publish the feed for my two blogs and to pass along to “followers” stuff that’s topically relevant, or which is slightly off topic but still presumably interesting to that … kind of person. But my immediate purpose when I re-upped was to make sure no one else picked up @RonColeman.
In the little space in which I operate, my name is a kind of brand, and at that point, given the gaudy 99-ish Twitter Rank ranking I had at the time (it’s now back up there), the Twitter ID “@roncoleman” did have some “secondary meaning,” so to speak. I didn’t want anyone else using it and, of course, I wanted to know I still could have it if for some reason I wanted to come back.
Good thinking, it turns out. Some people and companies are quicker on the trademark draw than others when it comes to social media. Stuff.co.nz reports on the second-time-as-farce recapitulation of those land-grab moments in domain name history, this time being played out over the narrow-cast social networking obsession that is Twitter:
What do Kevin Rudd, Nicole Kidman, Coca-Cola and Nike all have in common? They are all victims of squatters of their Twitter identities, in what appears to be a growing phenomenon on the burgeoning social networking website.
A leading Sydney law firm is warning clients to register their identities on the micro-blogging site or risk losing their identity to a squatter or a rival. . .
Is it really so anarchic on Twitter? Maybe not:
[Brand owners] such as Coca-Cola have been forced to make do with less than satisfactory monikers, such as CocaColaCo. But in something of a first, the company has complained directly to Twitter about squatting on its trademark and succeeded in getting the CocaCola ID “suspended” and then handed back.
Last night a Coca-Cola spokesman had some good news to report. “We are now officially in possession of the ‘coca-cola’ account, as Twitter acknowledged the name as a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola Company,” he said.
Well, yes, Twitter does have a policy like that actually — didn’t you know? Here it is, dated “January 14” of what appears to be 2009:
What is trademark violation [sic]?
Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others may be considered trademark infringement. Accounts with clear INTENT to mislead others will be immediately suspended.
Kind of mushy, though — a lot like Twitter’s own approach to the TWITTER trademark, which strikes me as very GOOGLE-like. The word “INTENT” in capital letters in this policy suggests we could find ourselves in the maybe-maybe land of “bad faith registration and use” so notorious in the domain dispute territories. I’d like to know more about how Coke snagged its brand back.
So trademark holders: Assume you’re on your own, and act accordingly. (Don’t get cute, by the way: The registered trademark LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® is too long to be a Twitter user name.)
Oh, and as to copyright? Well…