Recently Gap rolled out a new logo and already a twitter account impersonating the logo itself is out there – @GapLogo. This is obviously not an official company account, but simply someone who wants to state their opinions and have some fun with the new Gap logo. This is a clear case of trademarked logo infringement — someone has decided to use a brand’s protected image for their own purposes on a social network. What prompted the fake account was apparently an attempt by the Gap to crowdsource ideas for their new logo on Facebook, which has resulted in thousands of unhappy fans and the return to the old logo.

Everyone probably remembers the fake @BPglobalPR Twitter account which was created to make fun of BP’s handling of the gulf oil spill. A lot of people questioned the reasons why Twitter allowed them to continue to impersonate a major brand and corporation, but did you take a look at the logo they used? They took BP’s actual trademarked sunburst logo, photoshopped it black and white and added a few oil drips for good measure. Aside from actively impersonating the company’s PR team, they blatantly infringed on the trademarked image.

Twitter does have a Trademark Violation Policy, which states “Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation.” They do assert they will suspend or release an account in violation, but they appear to be either very slow or very reluctant to take any action on this policy.

This kind of logo impersonation raises the question, what kind of protection do brand and trademark owners have on social networks? If large companies like BP and Gap can be so easily impersonated and have their logos misused with no repercussions, what chance do you think your trademarked brand or logo will have in social media?

Barry Wise is co-founder of the social media trademark and brand protection firm KnowEm.com. KnowEm specializes in protecting trademarks in social media and provides free searches for username and domain name availability.

About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

Visit Brian's page at http://www.briansolis.com

Discussion

    Reuben18 October 2010 6:15 am

    I’d disagree with u on a few points, but I may be wrong here. In both the cases the idea didnt seem to be to mislead people that they were the real company accounts. Plus @GapLogo can hardly be called a proprietary name! Yes the use of the logo shud have been not allowed though.
    However, I recently went through the trademark policy for my brand and twitter responded pretty quickly. I filed the complaint on Friday morning IST and just this morning, twitter handed over control of the handle name (here someone was using our complete brand-name) to us!

    Booth1 November 2010 1:58 am

    More good info here…..I’ll be back!