Q: Can I trademark a hashtag?
A: The short answer is yes.
A trademark identifies the source of a product or service. If your hashtag is linked to your thing and it’s unique, then you can probably protect it with a trademark registration. Ask yourself these questions:
Do I use it consistently?
How is it tied to my service (your blog) or a product?
Do I plan to use it long term?
Is it distinctive?
Once your application is filed, it will go through the same extensive review process with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as any other potential trademark. The fact that it’s a hashtag doesn’t hurt you.
Just like with other trademarks there is no blanket protection. In other words, you will own the hashtag for a specific reason (tied to your product or service), not universally. Other people may still use a same or similar hashtag as long as it doesn’t infringe on yours (tie in to a related or same product). As a matter of fact, Twitter states in their policies:
Using another’s trademark in a way that has nothing to do with the product or service for which the trademark was granted is not a violation of Twitter’s trademark policy.
The question is, “Is the public likely to be confused of its source?” Is there a strong reason why they might mistake this hashtag for yours?
A few final tips on branded hashtags:
- As you are creating hashtags for your brand make them as unique as possible.
- Before you pay for a professional trademark search, research a website like twubs to see if people are already using it (and how).
- Lastly, weigh the pros and cons of registering it as a trademark. If you really want the hashtag to go viral you don’t want to scare your followers out of using it. If the hashtag is so catchy that it supercharges your brand equity and you will use it long past the hashtag movement then go own it.
I wrote an in-depth blog post on this topic for AwesomelyTechie.com. Check out the post here.