Hashtag trade marks, the latest craze.

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the symbol ‘#’ that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text. It is an identifier commonly used for communication on social media platforms such as Twitter, which started the trend in 2009. Initially it was used to group discussion on certain topics and ideas. Today hashtags are an essential part of and found on most social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Owning hashtag trade marks – what’s in it for brand owners?

The interest in hashtags lies in their capacity to go viral, a term describing the process of allowing an infinite number of potential consumers to communicate between themselves but also to interact directly with the brand, something which is rarely possible with traditional marketing tools.

Social media’s influence on commerce has greatly increased in the past years and hashtags can increase a brand’s popularity while drawing consumers attention without requiring much spending. This is why many businesses now seek protection of their hashtags.

So, can you trade mark your hashtags?

The hashtag is now a recognised symbol, it has even entered the dictionary, thus, having meaning to the general public. In most cases, what comes after the hashtag symbol would be considered the registrable brand, not the symbol itself.

Examples of registered trade marks with a hash sign in Australia include:

  • #LIFE
  • #What
  • #iDoitToday
  • #loveGC
  • #RapiT

And although the hash sign itself is unlikely to be considered a trade mark registrable, similar to top-level domains such as .com, businesses still give it a shot, as shown by a filing of the trade mark application ‘#‘ for clothing in March 2017!

And is it worth it?

Hashtag trade marks are created to encourage conversation with the aim to be used by as many people as possible. Hashtag trade marks are usually registered as social media marketing tools and can help build a strong online identity.