Social Media Handles

Chillax Acres was having a problem. Some of its residents had established a Facebook page and were using it to complain about everything from trash collection to HOA fees. Chillax Acres wanted to know if it could use trademark rights to force Facebook to give it control of the page.

The answers to these questions will determine whether Chillax Acres is likely to get help from a social media company.

  • Does Chillax Acres have common law trademark rights only or does it also have a trademark registration?
  • Does the handle or username sound like it’s “official”?
  • Is there a legitimate reason for the current owner to use the username or handle?

Registered Trademarks Only

Many social media companies require a registered trademark before they’ll consider any action.[1]

Twitter®Complaint form doesn’t ask for a trademark registration number.
Facebook® Instagram®Complaint form requires trademark registration number.
LinkedIn®Complaint form asks for registration number.
YouTube®Complaint form asks for registration number.

Chillax Acres Sucks

Social media companies won’t turn over a username or handle when it’s clear that it’s not “official.” For example, no one thinks the Twitter handle @cillaxacresssucks is the official Twitter account for Chillax Acres.[2]

Legitimate Reason

Social media companies won’t turn over a handle or username if the current owner has a legitimate reason to own it. For example, @united belongs to United Airlines® and there’s nothing that United Van Lines® or Manchester United® can do about it.

Bottom Line

If you didn’t snatch up the social media handles for your trademark AND you didn’t get a trademark registration, you’re probably out of luck.

Featured image ©2016 Redi-Rock International used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Image was modified for use.

[1] The information in the table is as of June 2020. In my experience social media companies require that the trademark registration date (or at least the application filing date) come before the date when the username or handle was assigned, so once you have a problem, it’s probably too late to register.

[2] The best-known “sucks” case was a World Intellectual Property Organization decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Walsucks and Walmart Puerto Rico, case number D2000-0477. WalMart® was trying to get control of the domain name using the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy that was adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The panel that decided the case ruled in favor of WalMart because the person who had bought wasn’t using it for griping. He was using it as a way to get money out of WalMart.

“The Panel stresses that this decision does not address legitimate freedom of expression sites established by parties critical of trademark holders. The Panel is aware that there are numerous websites identified by “-sucks” formative domain names, including “”. The Panel anticipates that Respondent (and others) may choose to characterize this decision as seeking to stifle freedom of expression on the Internet by ordering the transfer of “-sucks” formative names. Certain trademark holders might choose to characterize this decision as supporting action against “-sucks” formative domain names in other contexts. The Panel intends this decision to serve neither of these aims. This decision is directed to a blatant case of abuse of the domain name registration process – no more, no less.”

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