Apparently, you might need to trademark your hashtag soon. It looks like this is becoming a surging trend. According to Wall Street Journal, in 2015 1,398 hashtag trademark applications by brands were filed across the globe, in an attempt to secure the sole branded use of their hashtag.
The same report states that in 2010, only 7 companies had taken similar steps to protect their online property. In the social media world, hashtags are the new taglines used to distinguish brands, set the tone of voice or wrap online campaign.
Hashtags however, are open to users as well. Anyone can use them to submit and tag their content. In the past, we have seen numerous campaigns that got “hijacked” by users posting irrelevant or even inappropriate content under a branded hashtag, so it makes sense for brands to moderate and sanitise any offensive user-generated content.
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This leads to an inevitable question: How do hashtag trademarks work? If users can submit their content, does it make sense for brands to go through the application process? The quick answer is that it does make sense. With trademarked hashtags, brands will get to indulge in the sole use of their material, excluding competitors from submitting content to their online property.
Our take, is that we will see more and more companies follow the same tactic in the following years. The rules have changed, and brands that want to protect their intellectual real estate on social media should act quickly.