Another Facebook Face-Off? Possible Threat to Brand Owners from Facebook Usernames

After coming under fire earlier this year for changes to the terms on which user content is licensed, Facebook has now given rights owners further cause for concern.  Since the early hours of Saturday 13 June, the social networking website allows its users, both corporate and individual, to personalise Facebook’s URL (web address) by adding to it a Username of their choice so that internet traffic is directed directly to their profile. The Usernames could be your name, brand or trade mark or indeed any other term that has nothing to do with the profile to which it links.

Social networking sites such as Facebook have become increasingly popular and useful as marketing tools and the upside of this development is that it will make it easier for brand owners to increase their online presence. The downside is that because the Usernames are to be awarded on a first come, first served basis, “Username Squatting” may arise. This is where, in much the same way as cyber-squatting with domain names, unscrupulous users register a Facebook Username identical to a company’s name or trade mark in order to piggy back on that company’s reputation and siphon off its internet traffic.

Anticipating this, Facebook’s new terms and conditions forbid the transfer of registered Usernames to others so as to prevent profiteering by the selling of Usernames back to the legitimate brand owners.

Further, to curb the deliberate registration of multiple Usernames by parties creating new accounts, Facebook has given its existing members a head start. Brand owners with a Facebook profile created prior to 9 June 2009 are currently eligible to register a Username. The owners of any profiles set up after that date will not be able to do so until 5.01 am (BST) Saturday 28 June 2009.


Should you or your company already have an existing Facebook profile or public page, make the most of your head start and consider registering an appropriate Username here: www.facebook.com/username/.

However, if you do not already have a Facebook profile or public page for marketing or branding purposes, now may be the time to consider setting one up. If you decide to do so, we recommend that you create your account before Saturday 28 June 2009 and that you treat yourself to an early rise that morning and register your chosen Username before someone else beats you to it.

If, however, you sleep through your alarm and find that someone has got there first and registered a Username to which you feel entitled or which infringes your or your company’s intellectual property, report your complaint to Facebook using their automated form which you can find here: http://www.facebook.com/copyright.php?noncopyright_notice=1.

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/help/search/?query=username.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.