On a daily basis, any computer user is likely to hear about Facebook changes, and how those changes may affect one's online privacy. Now, with the social media's most recent addition of Community Pages, Facebook's broad exposure is causing potential problems for brand names.
While brands such at Coca-Cola, Target and Wendy's have long had "Fan Pages" (pages set up and controlled by the company), Community Pages are developed from other static information on user profiles and incorporating other user-derived content such as articles from Wikipedia.
In April, Facebook rolled out a total of 6.5 million Community Pages with the intent of better identifying what users care about and improving search engine results. However, those "unofficial pages" may include unfavorable comments and information. Exacerbating the situation is the unauthorized use of company logos at many of these unofficial pages. The unauthorized use of these logos makes these pages look official, which they are not, and puts the logos at risk of loss of rights, through equitable defenses of acquiescence and estoppel.
Upon creation, a new Community Page will appear with a message stating: "Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for (Name of Topic), sign up and we'll let you know when we're ready for your help." But if you click "sign up", you see another note that says "Thank you for wanting to improve this Community Page. We'll let you know when we're ready for your suggestions." It's not clear what Facebook will add here.
The most immediate threatening problem with this addition to Facebook, which currently boasts more than 5 million users, is that where once there may have been one profile for a brand, now there could be many unauthorized pages which could include disparaging or even slanderous materials.
So far, if these unauthorized pages are caught by brand managers and brought to the attention of Facebook administrators, the Community Page can be taken down.
To learn more about how to protect your brand and trademark, contact your intellectual property lawyer.