Brandjacking is exactly what it sounds like. It is using the trademark of a company without their permission for selfish reasons or to spread lies about the brand you are stealing from. Lisa P. Ramsey, who teaches law at the University of San Diego, provided us with the information on brandjacking. She has actually written many papers on the subject and the one cited was actually printed in the Buffalo Law Review.
It is no secret that social networks like MySpace and Facebook are now being used to communicate with their customers. They use them to gain feedback directly from the customers who use their products so they can make improvements in a timely manner. The problem with this is that anyone can create a username that says they are a company like Coca-Cola when in fact; the well-established company most likely did not give them permission to do so. This form of brandjacking, according to Ramsey, is called “username squatting” or “facesquatting” when Facebook started to allow the use of usernames in the summer of 2009.
There are certain companies who are perfectly okay with people using their trademark for good. For example, Coca-Cola is well aware of the fan page that has been set up in their name and continues to let it be in existence today. However, there are many companies who have shut down many of these sites like in the case of “Janet” of Exxon Mobil.
Janet was supposed to be an employee from Exxon Mobil who created a Twitter account to answer questions about the company. She was a face for the organization and engaged people in conversation about Exxon. The problem was she wasn’t an actual employee and it only took three days for the company to shut down the Twitter account. This is an example of what happens most of the time to those who brandjack.
Sometimes brandjacking can be dangerous. An example of this would be when someone used Nine West’s trademark to set up fake model auditions. The models were asked to send personal information and photographs that might deem inappropriate. Of the members that joined the group and actually participated became at least 400. For all Nine-West knew, this information that models were sending was going to an imposter and immediate action was taken. However, the same thing happened again so the company had no choice, but to sue for trademark infringement and now Nine West currently controls their own Facebook so no one else can create a fake one for them.
The problem with prohibiting brandjacking is that it can be argued on both sides. On one hand, you are clearly engaging in the infringement use of trademarked brands online, but on the other people are arguing that condemning brandjackers goes against the First Amendment. That is at least what brandjackers are testifying against in their cases. According to Ramsey, most companies win their cases against brandjackers.
For more information regarding the information in this article, here is the article that Ramsey wrote in the Buffalo Law Review.