Social Media Handles – Are they infringing on your rights?

Written by Cassine Bering | December 22, 2023

Intellectual Property

In the era of social media dominance, establishing a distinctive online presence is crucial for businesses and individuals alike. Yet, the digital landscape is not without its challenges, especially when someone starts using a social media handle similar to yours. Determining whether you have a valid claim for trade mark infringement or passing off under English law requires a nuanced understanding of the circumstances.

When You Might Have a Valid Claim:

  1. Similar Goods or Services:

If the other party’s social media handle is identical or closely resembles yours, and they are engaged in similar goods or services, you may have a valid claim. The likelihood of confusion among consumers is a key factor.

  1. Established Trade Mark Rights:

If you have registered your brand name as a trade mark, it strengthens your position. Registration provides a statutory right, and infringement claims are often more straightforward when dealing with registered trade marks.

  1. Consumer Confusion:

Demonstrating that the use of a similar social media handle is causing or is likely to cause confusion among consumers is crucial. If followers or customers are misled into thinking there is an association between the two accounts, it strengthens your claim.

  1. Reputation and Goodwill:

If you can show that your social media handle has acquired reputation and goodwill, and the other party’s use is damaging that reputation, you may have grounds for a passing off claim.

When You Might Not Have a Valid Claim:

  1. Dissimilarity in Goods or Services:

If the goods or services offered by both parties are dissimilar, and there is no likelihood of confusion among consumers, the basis for a claim diminishes. Trade mark protection is typically confined to specific classes of goods or services. This means if someone happens to have a similar social media handle to you but they are just using it in their personal capacity and not as a brand identifier, you are unlikely to have a valid claim against them.

  1. Lack of Distinctiveness:

If your social media handle lacks distinctiveness or has not acquired sufficient reputation, claiming trade mark infringement or passing off can be challenging. The law generally protects distinctive and well-known marks.

  1. No Likelihood of Confusion:

If it can be demonstrated that there is no likelihood of confusion between the two handles, and consumers are unlikely to be misled, a claim may not stand.

Navigating the realm of trade mark infringement and passing off in the context of similar social media handles requires a careful consideration of various factors. English law provides protection to those who can establish the likelihood of confusion, demonstrate the distinctiveness of their mark, and prove the potential harm caused by the other party’s actions. However, understanding the nuances of these claims is essential for making informed decisions and, if necessary, seeking legal redress to protect your online identity.

Related articles

Back to blog

Book a free consultation with one of our specialist solicitors.

We’ll start with a no obligation chat where we’ll get to know you and understand your current challenges.

Book your free consultation now

Looking for more information?

Explore our services Key industry sectors Briffa content hub