Businesses and entrepreneurs have been warned by a leading information technology lawyer to protect brand names and trade marks ahead of plans for personalised web addresses on Facebook.
From Saturday (June 13th) users of the social networking site will be able to register their own URL address, replacing numbers with a name of their choice. This could be your brand e.g. http://www.facebook.com/irwinmitchell.
But Joanne Bone, the Leeds-based head of Intellectual Property and Information Technology at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Due to the user generated nature of Facebook, allowing your trade mark to be used by others could present a range of costly problems ranging from trade mark infringement to defamation.
"While this can be seen as a unique opportunity, it may well present some very serious problems for trade mark owners.
"You do not want to find that your brand has been 'hijacked' by someone with no connection to you and put at the end of one of the personal URLs.
"Facebook has confirmed that it will allow rights holders to contest personal URLs which they believe to infringe their trade marks but we do not know how long or complicated this may be.
"Fortunately there is a way for trade mark owners to prevent their trade marks from being registered as personal URLs in the first place. But trade mark rights owners only have until 5.01am BST on Saturday (June 13th) to submit the form so the best practice approach is to submit this form immediately."
The form to prevent registered trade marks being used as usernames can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=username_rights