If you’re an employer, chances are good that you employ some of the 1.06 billion individuals who regularly use Facebook®, as well as some of the millions who regularly post to other popular social media websites. And, whether you realize it or not, those employees may be using those social media outlets to identify with your company, and your company’s trademarks.
When an employee uses a company’s trademarks in a social media platform, it creates a host of concerns for the employer. For example, an employee’s use of a mark may suggest a connection between the employer’s mark and the employee’s comments and other posts. Or, in more serious cases, an employee’s improper use of a mark could cause serious damage to the strength, reputation and goodwill associated with the mark.
So what can an employer do to protect its trademarks? Quite a bit. Although it’s impossible to monitor each and every social media website, the implementation of a social media policy that includes at least the following will go a long way in protecting your trademarks, and your company’s reputation.
The first and best way to defend your trademarks is through an employee training program. All employees should receive training on the proper and improper use of company trademarks. Provide a list of trademarks owned by the company and inform each employee that the trademarks belong to the company and should never be used without permission.
Of course, your social media policy should take into account a number of individualized factors, such as the size of your company, the number of employees, and the ease with which your company can police the ever-expanding number of social media websites. But the steps listed above will form the building blocks of a policy that will help prevent the damaging use of protected marks, promote the proper use of those marks, and minimize the damage resulting from an employee’s inappropriate use.