A twitter user who goes under the username of room214 was recently contacted by a companyÂ called Room 214, Inc asking him to give up his twitter account or else they would ‘take it from him’. Can they take any legal action to retrieve the twitter account using trademark law?
First of all, in the US, trademarks law is regulated by the Lanham Act. This act does not only protect registered trademarks, but also unregistered ‘common law’ trademarks. A mark can be protected and will have rights under this act if this mark develops a certain level of ‘distinctiveness’ which makes it qualify for the common law trademark protection. This means that Room 214 can still get protection for its mark regardless of whether it was registered or not, if it can proveÂ that the mark has been associated in the mind of the public with the certain service or product the company sells. This is a question of fact and will depend on the actual reputation the company has.
Now whether the company has a trademark or not, does this protection allow them to stop people from using a twitter account that contains their trademark?Â It must be noted that a trademark does not grant its own a monopoly over the use of a term, but instead it allows them to stop others from attaching the mark (1) to identical goods services or (2) Â similar goods and serives if the public would be confused as to the source of the goods.
It cannot be said that the use of a trademark in a twitter account amounts to the use of a trademark in relation to any goods or services, especially because the user in this case was not using his twitter in the course of a business, and even if he did his will only be infringing if his use was (a) relating to goods and services similar ot those provided by the tradmark owner and (b) the public would be confused as to the source of the goods and services by that use.
Certain trademarks in the US attract special protection against trademark dilution through the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. This protection has a wider scope, but may only be conferred on ‘famous trademarks’ – trademarks which has established a strong connection in the minds of the public between the good or service and the source of that good or service. Examples of such trademarks include Coca Cola and Microsoft. It is extremely unlikely for Room 214, Inc to have such protection as nobody heard about this company.
I would confidently conclude that Room 214 Inc will not have a legal action under trademark law to stop another person from using the term “Room214” as part of their twitter username.