Facebook is a popular social networking site which currently has approximately 200,000,000 users. Since 13 June 2009, Facebook users can now register a personal URL for their profile page on the Facebook website in the formfacebook.com/yourmark.
The current URL for each Facebook member’s page is a mixture of numbers and letters. Facebook decided to allow members to customise them so individuals could be found more quickly and easily. This is nothing new, as MySpace and other social networking sites also allow personalised URLs. However, the difference in this case is the popularity of the Facebook website. Once a personalised Facebook URL has been chosen it is permanent and cannot be changed or transferred. This raises concerns for brand owners as Facebook users may decide to choose a well known trade mark as their URL. The prospect of facebook.com/[yourmark] could become a reality!
Not only is infringement an issue but Facebook users could potentially register trade marks as URLs and use the resulting web pages to express undesirable views or display material that could defame or be detrimental to rights holders. This is certainly a situation that rights holders should seek to avoid.
In an attempt to reassure brand owners, Facebook held a pre-registration period for trade mark owners allowing any holders of a trade mark registration in any jurisdiction to register their rights with Facebook, which would then block the registration of this exact trade mark as a URL. This pre-registration period expired on 13 June 2009. However, if a trade mark has been used as a URL, brand owners can complete the IP infringement form athttp://www.facebook.com/copyright.php?noncopyright_notice=1 to alert Facebook to the problem.
Facebook have also taken other measures in order to reassure rights holders and prevent name squatting. According to Facebook, users who registered for a Facebook page after 31 May or signed up for a user profile after 13 June will not immediately be able to sign up for a username because of steps Facebook has taken “to prevent abuse or ‘squatting’ on names.” If a user with a personalised URL should close their Facebook account, the username will not become publicly available.