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Safeguarding intellectual property on social media is a concern shared by many brands and individuals. Impersonations and trademark violations are rather commonplace in the digital world, especially for celebrities and popular consumer brands.

Even if you are a small to mid-sized business who has just ventured into social media marketing, you should check to make sure that your brand has not already been claimed or misused by a third party. Worst case scenario, if you do find someone impersonating you or your brand or using your trademark logo, graphics or text, you can report it to the concerned social media network.

For example, in 2015 we searched the 'The Apollo' on Google which appeared as the first search result for the brand name.

Google search first result for brand name

Whereas in Twitter, the brand name is claimed both as a Twitter handle and a Twitter profile name by a third-party unrelated to the brand, as shown below:

Brand name claimed as Twitter handle and profile name

This means that if someone who has been to the restaurant tweets to the brand using the handle @theapollo or if someone searches for the profile name The Apollo on Twitter, they will be led to a different profile altogether. Thus, the brand may miss out on all the tweets addressed to them.

In this post, we'll discuss steps to take when your brand is impersonated or your trademark is used illegally on Twitter. Twitter is one of the largest social media networks and has many top brands that engage with their customers on a regular basis, and they have strict policies against any profile found to violate their intellectual property publicly.

Why Should You Claim Your Brand On Twitter?

There are no restrictions on users, fans or even those who want to create a negative reputation for your brand on any social media platform, including Twitter. Action will be taken against the violation of using your trademark, brand name, logos or images, but only if you report them. Most businesses often ignore these fake profiles or misleading account names that bear resemblance to their trademark. Here are a few reasons why you should regularly check for misuse of your trademark on Twitter and why you should do something about it.

Example of multiple usernames of the same brand

As you see in the image above, the brand name Search Engine Land has been used on three occasions. This is bad news for your brand for the following reasons:

  • Novice users could get confused about which is the original brand page and might end up following the fake ones.
  • Not all users of Twitter know that the blue verified badge next to a Twitter account handle is an indication of a verified Twitter account.
  • You could be losing followers to fake accounts.

Furthermore, if people use your brand name in mentions by using @brand, but you are actually '@brand101' then you could also miss vital engagement with your followers.

  • Duplicate or fake profiles can give out the wrong message to your brand. They may even create a negative social media reputation for your brand.

If you don't want to be one of those brands that lose a few valuable customers in the digital noise because of lack of investigation of your duplicate and misleading social media presences, we suggest you take some concrete steps towards claiming back your brand.

Claim Back Your Trademark On Twitter

If you are a brand based in the U.S and you have registered your trademark at the US Patent and Trademark Office or have any other patent for your brand, you can claim it in case it is being misused by unauthorized individuals or groups.

Twitter Trademark Violation Criteria

Twitter defines trademark violations in the following ways:

  • When your trademark in the form of business name, logo or other trademark-protected materials is used in tweets to mislead people. In this case, the action taken by Twitter would be to suspend the account and inform the account holder.
  • When an account is using your trademark materials and confusing users unintentionally. In this case, the action taken by Twitter would be to inform the faulty account holder to clear up any confusion. Twitter may also provide you with a new username with your trademark.
  • If your trademark is faultily used on Twitter's promoted tweets in the form of text, links, images, other embedded media, background, profile photo, profile header, bio and website that misleads users without any affiliation with your business or brand.

Criteria Not Taken Into Consideration In Twitter Trademark Violation

And it excludes the following actions under trademark violations:

  • Using a trademark in a way that is completely unrelated to the associated brand's product or service is not a Twitter trademark violation. So, for instance, if our Twitter handle is @woorank and someone else uses @_woorank for completely different set of tweets unrelated to our brand, it is not a violation. When it comes to usernames, Twitter offers them on a first-come first-served basis and will take no action it is claimed at a later stage (unless of course the content delivered misleads your customers or followers).
  • Some business trademark may be search keywords. Say for example, your brand is called 'HairCare' and someone else happens to use the same keyword in their Twitter ads that is relevant to their content, it is not a violation of your brand.

Filing a Trademark Violation Report

To report a violation you don't need to have an account on Twitter; you just need to be an owner of a registered trademark. If the violation you want to report fits in the criteria described above, you need to provide Twitter with the following information:

  • The trademark word or image being violated, that includes trademark registration number and registration office.
  • A link to the trademark record or to the registration office website.
  • Your company email address.
  • If you represent the trademark owner, you have to provide documents of authority to act on the trademark owner's behalf.

To report the violation all you need to do is go to Twitter support forum for reporting a trademark issue and fill a form that requires all the information listed above.

Taking Over An Inactive Account

Twitter will act on a case of impersonation only if the account in question is using your brand logo, name or images and misleading the users. This is how Twitter defines impersonation. Take a look at Twitter's Impersonation Policy.

What if an account has taken your brand's username but has no updates and no tweets? It has clearly been inactive, hence it is not misleading users intentionally. Although it may be a case of username squatting, getting Twitter to take an action on such an account may not be as easy as it is for Trademark infringement accounts (discussed above).

Example of an inactive twitter account

Inactivity can be based on a combination of tweeting, logging in and the date an account was created, according to Twitter's inactive account policy.

So, even if your impersonator (the owner of your trademark username) logs in rarely to the account, the account may not be considered inactive. That means if they aren't misleading your users, you may have to settle for an alternative username that either contains an abbreviation, an underscore or numbers to the existing account name.

Twitter has given the provision to report an account for impersonation, but you cannot just complete the form on the page and expect to claim the inactive account. Let's give you a few quick steps to take over an inactive account using your brand as username.

Step 1: Required Proof Of Impersonation

To report an account for impersonation, you need to gather enough proof for your claim. So, whether it is a description used on your website or a behavior unique to your brand being impersonated, take screenshots or links to claim the impersonation.

You can also show any images from your website or content that is being used by the account in concern. And if there are any past tweets in the account before it went inactive, that has been a reason to mislead your brand followers, you can collect that proof too.

Step 2: Proof That Authenticates The Brand Name To You

You need to have a website and an email with your brand name that proves that the username you are reporting is indeed your brand. So, if for instance, you want to claim an inactive account on Twitter with the username @woorank, you need to have a website called woorank.com and an email such as yourname@woorank.com.

NOTE: If you are not the brand owner and you are claiming the brand on behalf of the owner you will have to reproduce necessary documentary evidence that you have the authority to claim the brand.

Shown below is the slot on the Twitter's report an account for impersonation form that asks for the company e-mail address.

Twitter impersonation report using email address

Step 3: Create A Dummy Account

The report for impersonation form asks for a existing Company Twitter username, if applicable.

Twitter impersonation report process

If you do not have an alternative username already it is recommended that you create a dummy account with a username that may contain a number or an underscore or some additional text. If Twitter does transfer your branded username on the inactive account to you, it becomes easier when you have an existing account to merge it over.

Step 4: Report The Impersonation With Twitter

Complete the report for impersonation on Twitter by initially choosing the option 'I am being impersonated', as shown below:

Process for reporting impersonation on Twitter

Fill the form with relevant information and make sure to give as much information as you can.

Step 5: Wait For Twitter Team To Follow Up

As soon as you submit the form you will receive an auto-response email from Twitter on your official branded email. You must then wait for a little while to get the email from a human representative on the Twitter Trust and Safety Team. Based on the claim, the action taken will be duly notified via email.

Have you experienced duplicate or misuse of your brand name on Twitter? What steps have you taken to claim back your brand?