Usernames, trademarks, and Facebook. Help!
June 18, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Usernames, trademarks, and Facebook. Someone e-mailed my friend, saying that he owned the trademark to his name and has the right to demand that he turn over his username to him.

He appears to be a wannabe French pop star, and his MySpace music site is here.

Here is the message:

We're sorry to contact you for this subject. But, we're the owner of the (NAME) trademark and we have the rights to demand everypeople using (NAME) trademark not to use it even in Facebook. to develop the singer (NAME) we need to set up a officiel facebook and we'd like to use now the We will be most grateful if you can change your login and password to communique it to us to get the facebook address back to us. it will be better and we will not need to contact facebook directly. if you don't ask to us, we will contact facebook to defend our rights. thank you for your understanding. don't hesitate to contact us for any questions. best regards, (NAME) productions."

Um, can they actually do this? I know nothing about international trademark laws or Facebook Terms of Service on this topic, but it seems cruel that my friend would have to give up his username to a guy who only has 5000 hits on his MySpace and sings "i dream of laying my love in you."

Thanks for your help.
posted by krisken to Computers & Internet (30 answers total)
Complete and utter bullshit. Ignore it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by casconed at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Not only can and should you ignore it, but Facebook doesn't allow for name transfers so even if you wanted to be a good Samaritan and pass it off, you couldn't.
posted by jedrek at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2009

LOL. It's not even from a fake lawyer. You'd think they'd at least fake a lawyer. Don't just ignore it, mock it. If I were your friend, I would post the message to my wall for the amusement of all my friends.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: HAHAHAHA. See if you can figure out how to tell him to go eat a bowl of dicks in French.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2009 [10 favorites]

This is nonsense. Facebook has made it very clear that individual users can't change their names once set, so giving them the password would do nothing (except let them take the entire account over). Facebook _does_ have a process for dealing with IP infringement (here is the link), and I don't see why these people shouldn't just go through that process, worst case scenario is that facebook would detach the name from your friend's account. But there is _no_ way for anyone involved to accomplish this technically without facebook doing it for them.

Incidentally, facebook only allows Pages to get usernames if they have >1000 fans, so if they want the name for a page, it is probably impossible for this person through normal channels. (Though this is a bit unfair for small artists, I have to say.)
posted by advil at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

AFAIK it's impossible to have "the" trademark to something. Two companies can have the same trademark in different industries / markets.

So even if this were true, and even if owning the trademark on something had anything to do with Facebook accounts, I believe your friend would also need to be in the crappy French pop star business to even remotely be in conflict with the people sending that message. If your friend wants to respond to it seriously he should just say that he has the same trademark in (his industry of choice.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:15 AM on June 18, 2009

In the FAQ, there's a question: "I am an authorized representative for a public figure, brand or business and/or hold the rights to a trademark name. My username was claimed by another user. What can I do?". (Why can't I link to the FAQ?) The answer is: "If you wish to report that someone’s username infringes your rights, please fill out our automated IP infringement form." I realize that under actual copyright law your friend isn't doing anything wrong (since it's actually his name), but if this person chooses to report your friend to Facebook, there's a chance they'll be dicks and take it from him.

But I would just ignore it. Once he chooses to report is the point at which to do something.
posted by Plutor at 11:16 AM on June 18, 2009

Oops, that didn't quite sound right... I just meant to say that one of the possible serious responses could be that.
posted by XMLicious at 11:17 AM on June 18, 2009

Sounds like a case for Saul Fictionstein.

Utter, utter, crap. Tell him to find a rolled up newspaper and hit himself repeatedly in the head.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2009

Write them back, and tell them Prince (or, The Artist Formerly Known As…) is totally gonna sue their little French butts for ripping off his persona.
posted by dinger at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2009

It's not exactly "utter bullshit" but it is bullshit. I'm confident that if this guy did actually own the trademark, and you were using it in a similar manner, he could go through proper channels and claim ownership of it.

That said, his trademark is probably not registered - (R) instead of (TM) - and thus is harder to enforce. Additionally, if he trademarked "krisken" and you are using that name in a totally different capacity than him, that's even harder to enforce - i.e. you'd have to be a musician as well.

While I'm the first one to respect people's trademarks, this guy is going about it all wrong. In all honesty, I would tell him that he needs to contact Facebook's legal department.
posted by phrakture at 11:26 AM on June 18, 2009

I'd ask them for $50,000.
posted by rokusan at 11:29 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fact that he came to you instead of Facebook says it all. If he thought he had a case he'd go to them & not bother with contacting you at all. If you're feeling generous you can point him to the Facebook IP FAQ; if you're not just ignore him.
posted by scalefree at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2009

I am not your lawyer or your friend's lawyer. Ignore it; don't escalate. XMLicious is pretty much right. There's also the issue of trademark registrations in different countries. Yep, Coke has to register its marks in every country it does business in. A good example is Scrabble - the name is owned by Hasbro in N. America and Mattel in the rest of the world. Check their website to see what I mean.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um... They want you to send them the password to your account.

Sounds like a phishing scam to me. Report that fucker.
posted by Ookseer at 11:40 AM on June 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd report him - whether or not the request is in good faith, it is basically phishing. Facebook would not be in favor.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:42 AM on June 18, 2009

Don't respond.

I'd report them to Facebook's policy police. What's obnoxious is not so much that they're demanding you change your username, but that they're asking for your login/password credentials, which FB will not look kindly upon.
posted by mkultra at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

"we will not need to contact Facebook directly," as if your friend would be worried about Facebook finding out he registered his own name as his username. This sounds either like a phishing scam, or a really dumb music rep. I would report it to Facebook.
posted by ishotjr at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2009

Bullshit and/or phishing. Ignore. I wouldn't even bother writing back to insult him.
posted by arcticseal at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2009

Just ignore it. No response is necessary.
posted by PFL at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2009

Wait, his name is Soren and he's trademarked that?

According to this website, there are 399 people in the US alone who are named Soren. How in the world does he think this will work?

You can search and find that he's not trademarked his name with US Patent and Trademark Office. You, and Facebook's servers, are located in the US, so even if he's trademarked his name in France, I'm not sure he'd have legal standing to pursue you.

I'd ignore him, and let him report it (which is in essence reporting himself) to Facebook.
posted by Houstonian at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2009

As with all internet-oriented legalisms, ignore it until it shows up on signed paper from a lawyer.
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2009

Most if not all emails requesting you change your password etc. are phising. Also, we're doing some trademark work with Facebook and here is a recent communication we had from them (on Sunday, June 14th):


Thank you for submitting your trademark term(s). We’ve seen a large number of submissions and over the next few weeks we expect we’ll introduce a process for trademark owners to request the use of their restricted terms. We appreciate your patience in the interim and will be in touch soon.

User Operations


So they're still working on a plan for trademark issues which furthers the case that this is total bs.
posted by Kimberly at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2009

Owning the trademark on a particular group of words doesn't mean no one else can use it. Trademarks don't work that way. A trademark is infringed only if the infringing use represents a source of confusion to potential customers.

I can't set up a business and sell "Kelog's Corn Flakes" because that would represent dilution of Kellogg's trademark. But if my name was "Kellogg" and I used it as a login (or even if it wasn't my name), the Kellogg company would have no right whatever to tell me to change it. My use of it on Facebook wouldn't confuse Kellogg's customers, so it isn't an infringement.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:22 PM on June 18, 2009

According to this website, there are 399 people in the US alone who are named Soren.

In Denmark, more than 43 000 people are named Søren. That makes Søren the sixth most common male first name in Denmark.

(By the way, are you aware of the story?)
posted by iviken at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2009

Before the Landgrab, there was a process where you could register your trademark with Facebook to prevent just this thing. Not sure what the dispute process is like now- But unless your friend registered the username METALLICA or something, he's a-okay.
posted by GilloD at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2009

Huh. My boyfriend got almost the exact same email for his FB username, which is his firstname.lastname. If was for some artist who claimed he was famous and that it was is trademark or some crap like that.

At the end of the email however, the email sender whined about how he tried to register the name only 30 minutes after FB opened it up, and how it wasn't fair that he didn't get it. My bf was just faster. (Actually, I was on there right away grabbing mine, and my bf figured he'd do the same since he was thinking about it, otherwise he really wouldn't have cared less)

You snooze, you lose.
posted by cgg at 4:32 PM on June 18, 2009

LOL, really LOL.
Someone's wanting to be "popular" and "important".
posted by LittleMissItneg at 6:24 AM on June 19, 2009

Come on. Ask him for $50,000.

Explain that that is far, far less than the cost of the litigation he'll have to undertake to take the name away. It's very win-win. :)
posted by rokusan at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2009

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