Name Squatting On Twitter – Claim What Is Yours

by Derick Schaefer on December 28, 2009

Twitter name squatting

One of the great things about Twitter is their respect for people and brands.  Twitter’s terms of service and rules have explicit policies that can help you protect your brand online.  Unlike in the domain name world where ICANN doesn’t enforce rules or provide clear procedures for dealing with name squatters, Twitter does.

In this post, I’ll walk you through Twitter’s terms of service in this area and how to claim what is yours.  I’ll even provide Twitter’s fax number, which is not highly publicized.

First, you need to be clear on what you are asking of Twitter when claiming what is yours.  There are three areas of Twitter’s terms of service under which you can make a claim.  These are name squatting, impersonation, and trademark.  I’ll walk through each of these.

Name Squatting

When the Internet began its ascencion in the 90′s, speculators called domainers created a marketplace for domain names.  Some of these speculators made a lot of money in the process.

When Twitter began its rise in popularity, speculators predictably entered the Twitter name market.  Their only miscalculation was that name squatting is against Twitter’s terms of service and Twitter’s operations group has been very diligent about taking those names away from the offenders.

Per Twitter’s help resources page on name squatting, Twitter takes the following factors into consideration when reviewing name squatting cases:

  • the number of accounts created
  • creating accounts for the purpose of preventing others from using those account names
  • creating accounts for the purpose of selling those accounts
  • using feeds of third-party content to update and maintain accounts under the names of those third parties

Two other areas related to name squatting are the mass creation of accounts, which violates Twitter terms of service on spamming, and offering Twitter names for sale.

To report name squatting, you can file a Terms of Service report ticket directly with Twitter’s customer service.

One thing to understand is that Twitter may not release names they take from squatters and unless you have a trademark claim, your reporting of the name squatting does not entitle you to the name.

Impersonation

Twitter’s terms of service defines impersonation as:

“impersonation is pretending to be another person or business as entertainment or in order to deceive. “

However, the very same terms of service allows for “parody impersonation” and defines the standard for parody impersonation as:

“would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke?”

Twitter accounts found to be impersonating for the purpose of misleading or deceit will be suspended.

If you would like to file a complaint and have Twitter investigate an impersonation violation, you have to either be the person being impersonated, be the representative of a business or brand being impersonated, or be an official representative of a person or brand being impersonated.  If you have a Twitter account, you can submit a impersonation web request online or impersonation@twitter.com.

Trademark Infringement

Twitter’s terms of service defines trademark infringement as

“Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others or be used for financial gain may be considered trademark infringement.”

Unlike other areas of their rules, trademark infringements are one area where they have legal liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and are specifically NOT provided immunity under Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act..  Therefore, this is the one area of their terms of service that they will be very serious about and quick to respond to requests.

In order to report a trademark violation to Twitter, you can file a request online through your Twitter account or send an email to terms@twitter.com with the following information:

Username of the violating account (or the URL to their profile page):
Company name:
Company Twitter account (if there is one):
Your First and Last Name:
Title:
Address:
Phone:
Fax:
Company domain address:
Your company domain email address:
Registration Trademark number:
Requested Action (for example, removal of infringing account, or transfer of trademarked username to an existing company account):

What Do You Do If Twitter Support Isn’t Responding In A Timely Manner?

Twitter is a startup and dealing with the typical growing pains an online service faces when they explode in popularity.  If you are not getting responses or actions in a timely manner from Twitter customer support, take an old school approach by sending your communications via US Postal Service or to Twitter’s fax number.  You can mail certified mail to:

Twitter Inc.,
c/o Trademark Infringement
795 Folsom Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94107

You can also submit your request to Twitter’s fax number which is: 415-222-0922.

In my experience in working with Twitter, they are helpful and want to do the right thing so I HIGHLY ADVISE using a friendly approach.   Twitter’s General Counsel, Alexander Macgillivray, previously worked for Google and is no “new kid on the block” when it comes these topics. Thus, be prepared to back your words if you have an attorney or law firm send a request that is chalked with legal jargon and less than friendly in nature.

Summary

Twitter is very powerful and is here to stay.  Sign up right away for a personal account or one that represents your business or brand.  If it is taken, evaluate your approach based on categories of name squatting, impersonation, or trademark infringement and claim what is yours.

If you are new to Twitter, spend a little time with Hannah in our social media category to make sure it is right for you and your business and/or blogging needs.

{ 1 trackback }

What to do if Someone is Squatting Your Name on Twitter
February 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DaDa Rocks! March 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Great article and information! I’m totally going to share this on twitter :)

Reply

Rick Upshaw December 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Great information! I’ve been looking everywhere for Twitter’s number over an issue for a marketing client of mine. Thanks so much for putting this out there!

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