As a restaurant owner, there’s no denying that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram play a big role in your marketing campaigns and your restaurant’s success. With 92 percent of frequent social media users visiting full-service restaurants at least once a month, it’s easy to see why restaurant owners are flocking to social media sites as a way to engage with potential and current patrons.
But before you ramp up your social media efforts, it’s important that you consider protecting your image. Specifically, having a federal trademark registration can help you quickly address issues with would-be infringers.
Here’s a three-pronged approach to provide some security:
1. If you haven’t already trademarked your restaurant name, now’s the time to hire a specialist to help you search available names and file your trademark.
Receiving federal registration for your trademark name means that you will have the rights to use that specific name within the restaurant industry and ensures that you aren’t accidentally violating someone else’s trademark.
An attorney-conducted trademark search will go far beyond anything that you could do on Google or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, and the investment in a professional search will let you move forward with a greater sense of confidence. Moreover, when it comes to filing your federal application, an attorney can ensure your application is drafted to meet all the technical requirements necessary to obtain approval from the USPTO.
2. Be sure to reserve your trademark name on social media channels.
Once your trademark is registered, regardless of how active you plan on being on social media channels, it’s important to reserve your trademark name proactively on all of the top social media. By doing this, you’re placing a hold on your trademark name so it will be available for you if/when you have the time or inclination to start connecting with customers via that particular channel.
3. Keep an eye on social media for trademark violations, and take action if needed.
To retain exclusive rights to your trademark name, you must monitor it to ensure that others are not infringing on your rights in social media or anywhere else. And this goes for your exact name (for example, “Beau’s Barbecue”) as well as names that may be confusingly similar (Beau’s Barbecue Company” or “Beau’s Bar-B-Cue”).
Almost all of the major social media sites — including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram — have their own online forms you can complete to notify them of potential infringement issues. But before you fill out the online form or fire off an email to the potential infringer, make sure you consult your trademark attorney. If you inadvertently try to enforce rights that fall outside of the scope of what’s covered under trademark law, you could actually be opening yourself up to legal issues.
When your attorney determines that infringement has occurred and it’s appropriate to move forward, often all that’s needed is proof of your trademark ownership in the form of your federal trademark registration number in the online trademark infringement form. In most cases, the social media site will shutter the infringing entity's page and the problem will be resolved. If not, your attorney can help you determine what steps to take next.
Founder of the Gerben Law Firm, Josh Gerben is a U.S. trademark attorney who has represented clients in more than 5,000 trademark filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.