The hashtag. Once: an infrequently used symbol to denote number systems and indexing within specific industries, now: a common place sign which has exploded onto the social media scene as a means of linking similar topics, themes and ideas together, and also providing companies with a useful way of expanding their reach as an indirect marketing tactic.
The hashtag has clearly evolved, and with it; the importance of obtaining intellectual property protection. In a world where everything is #hashtag this, and #hashtag that, just how common is this punctuation mark as a feature of a trade mark registration?
Thomson Compumark’s recent records indicate that since the first hashtag registration was granted in 2010, over 5,000 applications containing this familiar symbol have been filed internationally. With 44% being filed in 2016 alone. This rise in applications may be twofold; not only is the hashtag a popular and easily understood communicative tool which appeals to a mass consumer base, but also companies are beginning to recognise the importance of utilising social media to its full potential and capitalising on modern trends.
It is a platform which is at the forefront of how consumers retrieve their information and therefore, using a hashtag may be an easier strategy through which to communicate with consumers and build instant brand recognition, as opposed to alternative marketing methods which may not target consumers as effectively as in days gone by.
The requirement for an application containing a trade mark to pass examination under absolute grounds is much the same as for a word mark, e.g. it is likely to pass through to publication so long as the terms that the tag is combined with are distinctive to the goods and services for which the applicant is applying, and non-descriptive. The U.S. Registry stipulate that an application containing a hashtag can only obtain a registration “if it functions as an identifier of the source of the applicant’s goods or services.”
So if your business uses a hashtag, why not look into the idea of protecting it with a trade mark registration? Our team of Trade Mark Attorneys will gladly assist in your query.
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