The hashtag (#) is a new branding phenomenon and trademark applications for branded hashtags are increasing.
No longer used solely by Twitter users, the hashtag is an integral part of the American social, commercial, and political landscape. Hashtags appear on products, in television broadcasts, and at political events. TV shows such as The Voice and Fox’s American Idol, consumer products companies such as Birdseye use hashtags to promote their brands and products. Birdseye created a website where consumers can post their meals with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations.
You can use a hashtag as a brand name or slogan for your product or service. If you register it as a trademark, you must prove you’re actually using your hashtag to promote and sell your products or services. It’s a smart business strategy and, like a tagline, logo or other branding or identity mark, it can be very useful as part of your online marketing efforts.
Before registering your hashtag, do some research to make sure no one else is already using it. In addition to a trademark search, sites like twubs.com are a good starting point. A trademark search will reveal how strong your trademark (or hashtag) choice is. If a trademark search shows the hashtag mark you’re considering using is in a crowded field, then it’s better to find a new mark.
Trademarking a hashtag will not prevent people from using it on Twitter. But it will prevent companies and service providers within the same industry from using your hashtag to compete with you.