A catchy hashtag can be a powerful piece of advertising that you might want to protect. Find out if you can use hashtags as a trademark here.
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Hashtags are a common feature of social media today. You can find them on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at the bottom of posts and photos. If you are a business owner or have an organization, you may want to use a catchy hashtag as a brand to promote your business or cause. Protecting a hashtag with trademark registration can prevent other competitors from hijacking your online campaign for their own benefit. Here we discuss what hashtags are and whether you can and should register a hashtag as a trademark.
What are hashtags?
If you’re late for the game, a hashtag is a # symbol followed by a word or words. People use them on social media websites to tag and compile similar content. You can share any content you create, e.g. For example, a photo or a written contribution is provided with hashtags that describe or relate to this contribution. This can include where you are (“#Sydney”, “#Maccas”), what you are doing (“#dancing”, “#drawing”) or your mood (“#peaceful”, “#mad” ). When you click on a hashtag, you will see different content on the page that is also tagged with the same hashtag. The goal of hashtags is to make it easier for users to easily access similar content. They also allow content creators to access audiences who are interested in the type of content they are creating.
These days hashtags are more than just descriptors. People have used them to drive an incredibly successful online campaign, trend, or advertisement. This includes the “#MeToo” movement, which focused on raising awareness of sexual harassment and assault. This movement spread across the world via Twitter and resulted in high profile figures like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein being exposed for sexual misconduct. Another example is the “#MyCalvins” campaign. Celebrities and social media influencers have posted pictures of themselves in Calvin Klein underwear and tagged this hashtag. This resulted in 3.6 million new followers for Calvin Klein’s social media accounts.
Can you use hashtags as a trademark?
In short, yes you can. But just like any other trademark, it has to adhere to certain rules for trademark registration. It would be the word or words that follow the “#” symbol and that would have to conform to these rules. The hashtag will be rejected by IP Australia if:
- Contains mandatory or prohibited signs;
- Is not distinctive;
- Scandalous or illegal;
- Likely to deceive or cause confusion; or
- Identical or similar to registered trademarks.
Back to the examples above: Hashtags like “#Sydney”, “#drawing” or “#mad” are rejected because they are indistinguishable. People use these words in everyday life and do not clearly describe your brand or company. However, IP Australia is likely to accept hashtags such as “#MyCalvins” and “#Maccas” as trademarks that reflect a distinctive brand name. Since trademark filings take several months, make sure you understand these rules so your filings are not rejected.
Register your brand
Register your trademark using our simple online application to get protection for your trademark.
Why should you use hashtags as a brand?
As you can see from the examples above, hashtags can become powerful marketing tools. If you have a business or brand that you want to promote, hashtags can help you reach the right audience and more people. An effective hashtag campaign can generate tremendous exposure and put your business in the spotlight on the internet.
Brands can help protect hashtags used to promote your business. Once a hashtag is registered as a trademark, you can prevent other companies or individuals from hijacking your hashtag to promote their own business. This is to ensure that the successes of a hashtag campaign are rightfully yours.
However, you should make sure that you are tactful with any hashtags that you want to brand. They don’t want to turn any of your customers or your audience against you by trying to flag certain hashtags. This happened when cosmetics brand Hard Candy Cosmetics applied to register “#MeToo” as a makeup and fragrance brand. The business received huge public backlash as people viewed this as an attempt to make money from a social movement and were disrespectful to the cause. Hard Candy eventually withdrew. Make sure you consider the public’s perspective before branding a hashtag, especially if the hashtag is related to a social cause or movement.
Marking a hashtag can certainly be a good idea to promote your business. At a time when most people are on social media, an effective hashtag campaign can really put your business in the spotlight. Registering a brand for this hashtag can ensure that your competitors aren’t using your hashtag or a similar hashtag to promote their own business. Make sure you understand the rules for registering a trademark and see if it gets a positive reception before doing so.