Impersonation and username squatting refers to a more recent phenomenon that has come about as a result of increased use of the Internet. Impersonation refers to the improper use of username accounts on popular social media platforms in order to masquerade as a different person.
Username squatting typically involves the registration of a particular username or account in the hopes of profiting from the sale of that username back to the named company or user at an inflated price. This typically involves registration by users who have no intention of using the account in a legitimate manner. “Twitter Squatting” is a form of username squatting.
In short, trademark infringement is not the same as impersonation or username squatting. While impersonation and username squatting is undoubtedly related to trademark infringement, there are distinctions. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines trademark infringement as the unauthorized use of a trademark in a manner that is likely to cause confusion or deception among consumers. For example, use of a third-party’s brand can constitute trademark infringement.
Popular social media platforms often pointedly make this distinction as well. For example, in its rules and policies, Twitter notes that “if an account has had no updates, no profile image, and there is no intent to mislead, it typically means there’s no name-squatting or impersonation.” Twitter goes on to state that, unless the report involves a claim of trademark infringement, it will not release inactive or squatted usernames.
Brand Squatting; Twitter Squatting; Social Media Squatting
Brand and company owners should be aware that different social media platforms respond to allegations of impersonation and username squatting differently. Because there are no uniform requirements regarding the registration of usernames, social media platforms are free to exercise varying degrees of control or involvement when it comes to the registration of usernames.
With our experience in Internet law and intellectual property law, we can help determine whether username squatting, impersonation, or trademark infringement is taking place. We can help navigate the confusing distinctions and assist in pursuing legal recourse regarding these issues. If a brand or company’s name, brand, or trademark is being used or infringed, we provide advice on how to retrieve the account and how to control the proliferation of the brand on the Internet.
As an internet and eCommerce law firm, our internet and eCommerce lawyers can assist with advising on impersonation and username squatting legal issues. See our Internet & eCommerce service line page for additional information about impersonation and username squatting legal services.