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Someone else is using my trademark as a username on Twitter. What can I do?
Posted on Aug. 17, 2016

Twitter prohibits “username squatting” (registering another’s trademark as a username). However, because Twitter gives out usernames on a first-come, first-served basis, without running a clearance check to make sure a requested username is not a trademark owned by someone else, username squatting inevitably happens.

Upon receiving a report of username squatting from the owner of a registered trademark, Twitter investigates and classifies the username squatting as either: (1) intentionally misleading; (2) unintentionally misleading; or (3) not misleading.

If Twitter classifies the username squatting as intentionally misleading (a “clear intent to mislead others”, with resulting confusion in the marketplace), Twitter’s policy is to suspend the squatter’s account. It will also consider releasing the username to the trademark owner, but it does not promise to do so. So you might be able to shut down the squatter, but still not obtain the right to use your trademark as a username on Twitter. The trademark would simply be out-of-service as a username. 

If Twitter classifies the squatting as unintentionally misleading (no evidence of a “clear intent to mislead others”, yet confusion is nevertheless occurring), Twitter’s policy is ambiguous. It says it will take action against the squatter in some situations, but not others. The factors considered by Twitter looks at in making that decision are not disclosed.

If Twitter classifies the squatting as not misleading (no evidence of a “clear intent to mislead others”, and no confusion), Twitter will not take any action against the squatter. Many cases will fall into this classification, as it can be difficult to find evidence of a “clear intent to mislead” and/or confusion. Finding such evidence usually requires use of the discovery procedures available upon the filing of a lawsuit. 

The bottom line is that taking back a Twitter username from a squatter can be difficult. It is not always a matter of simply presenting Twitter with the certificate of registration for your trademark. The best practice is to avoid the username squatter problem entirely by registering your trademarks as Twitter usernames as soon as possible after use has commenced, even if you are not currently active on Twitter. Once you own the username, you don’t have to worry about someone else registering it.

Finally, there are many reasons to register a trademark with the USPTO, but here is one more: Twitter will only accept reports of username squatting from owners of registered trademarks. Owners of common law trademarks have no standing to complain to Twitter about username squatting. It appears that even a registration on the Supplemental Register (for descriptive marks) will allow you access to Twitter’s username squatting protection. 

Trademark Law
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Attorney Brett D. Ekins

Brett D. Ekins is an experienced and accomplished trademark and intellectual property lawyer. He represents clients in intellectual property matters and commercial litigation throughout Utah, Nevada and California in state and federal courts, including high-stakes litigation involving trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets. Brett also has extensive experience registering trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.