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Hashtags have become an increasingly popular marketing tool, mainly due to the rise of social media. As a result, many businesses use a hashtag to promote a specific advertising campaign and have had exceptional results. If you register a hashtag as a trademark, you can have the right to prevent others from using your hashtag for their benefit. This article will outline what you need to know about registering hashtags as trademarks, including the registration requirements and some basic advantages and disadvantages.
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What is a Hashtag?
A hashtag refers to the ‘#’ symbol followed by a word or a phrase. Its primary uses are for social media purposes to classify and collate specific types of content. For example, if you take a picture at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you may wish to hashtag “#sydney” and “#sydneyharbourbridge”. This will allow others looking for content of Sydney to find your content and access other similar content easily.
Can I Register a Hashtag as a Trade Mark?
Yes, it is possible to register a hashtag as a trademark. The Manual of Practice and Procedure by the Trade Marks Office specifically addresses hashtags and suggests that the use of the ‘#’ symbol is secondary to the words or phrases following it. For this reason, the words or string of words following the ‘#’ symbol of hashtag trademarks will be the primary consideration in a trade mark examination.
We outline some of the key barriers to registering a hashtag as a trademark below:
Hashtags with words or phrases that describe your product or service will be difficult to register as a trade mark. This is because others with the same type of goods or service will also need to use that word in business. An example of this is ‘#bestfood’ for a restaurant. Others in the same industry will need to use this phrase, making it unfair for one business to have a monopoly over it.
Similar to Other Trade Marks
A trademark should not be identical or similar to an existing trade mark on the Australian trade marks register. As such, if you apply for a trade mark using the ‘#’ symbol that is similar to a trade mark without the ‘#’ symbol, it will likely not be approved.
For example, a trade mark for ‘#jimshomedesigns’ will be considered too similar to a trade mark already registered for ‘Jim’s Home Designs’. This is particularly the case if they fall under the same category for the same, or similar, goods and services.
Commonly Used Words or Phrases
Commonly used words or phrases are indistinguishable. This means you cannot register them as a trade mark. So, for example, you will not be able to register a hashtag for ‘#melbournelandscaping’ if you offer landscaping services. This is because others in your industry need to use this phrase, and one business should not have a monopoly on such a phrase.Continue reading this article below the form
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Benefits of Registering a Hashtag as a Trade Mark
If you rely on social media to generate business or have a unique hashtag that identifies your brand, you should consider registering a trade mark for your hashtag. Hashtags have become a powerful marketing tool that can help you reach a broader audience. Registering a trade mark for your hashtag means it is only available for your exclusive use. This will prevent competitors from capitalising on your hashtag campaign and riding off your success.
Disadvantages of Registering a Hashtag as a Trade Mark
A downside to registering a hashtag as a trade mark is its lack of longevity. While specific advertising campaigns utilising hashtags have had much success, this is typically fleeting. As such, registering a trade mark for your brand name or slogan alone may provide more valuable protection for your business in the long term.
It is possible to register a hashtag as a trade mark. However, your hashtag must still meet the rules for trade mark registration, just like any other application. This includes that your hashtag must not be:
- similar to other registered trademarks;
- a commonly used word or phrase.
If you need assistance registering a trade mark for a hashtag, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. Call us today on 1800 532 904 or visit our membership page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it is possible to register a hashtag as a trade mark. However, a trade mark for a hashtag is still required to meet the rules for trade mark registration as any other application. This includes that your hashtag must not be descriptive, similar to other trademarks or a commonly used word or phrase.
If you rely on social media to generate business or have a unique hashtag that identifies your brand, you should consider registering a trade mark for your hashtag. A hashtag has the benefit of reaching a broad audience, while trade mark registration means it is only available for your exclusive use.
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