As a safety measure companies usually opt for trademark protection before they launch a new product or service, but have any done it the other way round?
Wyke Farms, an independent cheese maker, says it is the first company in the UK to register a trademark based on the strength of a social media campaign—‘Free Cheese Fridays’, which awards cheese to handpicked Facebook and Twitter users employing the hashtag on Fridays. In this month’s TBO newsletter we speak to Rich Clothier, managing director at Wyke Farms, who explains that while trademark protection now allows him to invest in the campaign, it does not give him licence to attack consumers using the hashtag. They will be free to engage at will, he says, although businesses “hijacking” the campaign will not necessarily be spared.
It may seem obvious that consumers should be allowed to freely participate in the campaign, but the public’s knowledge of IP can often be limited or distorted. It is welcome, therefore, that Wyke Farms is seeking to reassure customers that the trademark will not be used as a weapon against them.
One of the best things about this story is that a small company was bold enough to launch a social media campaign before obtaining trademark protection. Such a move does leave an unprotected idea or slogan vulnerable to copying, but it gives companies (particularly small ones) more flexibility to test their ideas before stumping up the IP cash. Perhaps in the future, more trademarks will emerge organically from their online environments.
We also have updates from Nick Wood, of domain name registrar Com Laude, and Kristina Rosette, president of ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency, about various trademark-related developments in the domain name world.
We hope you enjoy.
Ed Conlon, Group editor