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Advice to businesses over ‘social media trademarks’

Businesses may have an extra avenue open to them to protect their products following a landmark legal ruling which saw a company claim the first ‘social media trademark.’

The warning comes after a UK-based cheese manufacturer, Wyke Farms, won trademark protection for a social media campaign known as Free Cheese Friday, which sees thousands of Facebook and Twitter users take part.

The Intellectual Property Office reportedly awarded the company with the trademark after it decided that the name of the competition is distinctive enough and had been in use by Wyke Farms for several years.

Rob Dobson, partner in the Corporate team at Napthens solicitors, has welcomed the news and said it may help smaller companies protect their goods or produce.

He said: “The Intellectual Property Office now appears to consider the use of social media as an indicator that a word or phrase does have distinctiveness, and therefore can be registered as a trademark.

“It is very interesting that the phrase was part of a marketing strategy rather than the name of a cheese, for instance. This may open up a new avenue for those companies which cannot protect the product they supply.

“If they cannot get a trademark for the item they may be able to get a trademark for a word which effectively advertises the product, if they can establish that the words or phrase does have distinctiveness.”