Can you trademark a hashtag?
Yes, you can trademark a hashtag with the USPTO so long as you are providing a product or service to the general public associated with that hashtag. You'll need to demonstrate this in the USPTO filing, so you can't start this process until you've actually used the hashtag you're looking to trademark.
You can use a hashtag as a brand name or slogan for your product or service, in much the same way that any other name or phrase or combination of words can be used to brand a product or service.
In order to register a trademark for a hashtag, you must demonstrate to the United States Patent and Trademark Office that you are using that hashtag to promote or sell your products or services. This is the same standard of trademark law that applies to other items as well - all trademark owners need to meet this criteria.
Trademarking a hashtag will not prevent people from using it on Twitter. or other social media platforms It is important to keep in mind that others may use the Twitter hashtag, and a trademark will not give you legal recourse if someone uses it in a way that you disagree with. Trademark protection serves to prevent companies and service providers within the same industry from using your hashtag to compete with you. While Twitter does respond to trademark violations, they only do so when one party is using another party’s trademark to mislead consumers.
Examples of Hashtag Campaigns
Large companies like Coca-Cola have already registered twitter hashtags as trademarks, specifically #cokecanpics and #smilewithacoke. Let's look at a few other examples of large companies launching social media campaigns around a hashtag.
In the spring of 2016, Pepsi launched a campaign around a hashtag they've trademarked, #sayitwithpepsi. The announcement of the corresponding emojis can be read here. Here's an example of a tweet with the campaign's hashtag:
— Firo Abagnale Jr. (@itsfiro) February 23, 2017
In 2015, Nest launched a campaign around the hashtag #CaughtOnDropCam to show off images and video that were caught because of their DropCam product. Here's an example:
— Google Nest (@googlenest) April 17, 2015
Cat and Nat
As I mentioned over at StartupNation:
Cat and Nat have amassed a large social media following. As of June 2018, they have 225K Instagram followers, and 967K Facebook likes/followers. They also have nearly 50K YouTube subscribers. The majority of their popular YouTube videos are about so called “Mom Truths,” where they talk candidly about being a mother. These posts are all labeled with #MomTruths.
So, in this case, why did they pursue a trademark?
The most pressing reason is to prevent other people from swooping in and producing goods like coffee mugs or sweatshirts with the phrase and hashtag they’ve pushed to popularize, and have already gotten in front of millions of viewers across their social channels.
Without a trademark registration for this hashtag, anyone would be able to start selling these products, mooching off of years of their hard work to turn a quick profit.
Registering Your Hashtag
If you would like to discuss protecting your intellectual property and trademarking Twitter hashtags, or hashtags for other social media sites, contact us today and speak to the top trademark attorney in the US.