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.
Rand Brenner is an IP professional whose passion is helping inventors, startups, and businesses of all sizes use licensing to turn their IP into income-producing products, services, and technologies. His decades of experience run the gamut from medical devices to food technology to consumer products. He’s licensed some of the biggest Hollywood entertainment blockbusters including the Batman Movies (1 and 2), and the number one kid’s action TV show, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Rand speaks about licensing and is a featured speaker at investment conferences, trade shows, colleges and startup events. He’s a published writer with articles appearing in several prestigious trade magazine including The Licensing Journal, Intellectual Property Magazine, and License India. Rand also mentors at the Cal State Fullerton School of Business and Economics and is a judge for their startup business plan competitions.