Social media sites have become a great way to promote your business online, attracting new clients and keeping up with what your customers are talking about. However, there are some risks associated with social media sites, especially when it comes to your intellectual property. Intellectual property is defined as a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript, design, company logo, or company intel, that is protected under law against unauthorized use by others. Identifying the problems In many cases, we think very little about what is posted to our social media accounts. However, there is a possibility that some of those postings can reveal information that could potentially put our intellectual property at risk. In addition, there is very little protection offered by most social media sites when intellectual property is used improperly. Interestingly enough, it is not uncommon to attempt to set up a social media account for your business, only to discover that someone else has set up an account with your business name. Preventing issues today and tomorrow Popular wisdom is that when you set up your first website or blog, you should immediately set up accounts on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and others) using your business name. This may be a good approach, but what happens when you discover that someone has already done that? This is often a tricky problem that must be addressed. Why social media is fraught with problems Most social media sites, as well as website name providers do nothing to validate the identity of the person opening an account. This means that anyone can use your company name in their website name, their social media accounts and even in their email addresses. Because of this lack of validation, your trademark, your company name and even any slogans you have trademarked could be all over the Internet long before you have established your own presence. Not all bad news Before you start fighting to regain your proprietary name and trademark on the Internet you have a number of tools at hand. Unfortunately, someone who has taken the time to create an account in your name is likely to ignore takedown complaints. The terms of service on most sites allows for individual complaints of intellectual property breaches, but in many cases, as soon as an account is shut down, it can be started back up almost immediately. Another concern is that some sites do not release a name immediately after an account is shut down, which means the damage can be longer-lasting, especially if you are working towards building an online presence. When all else fails, you will have to contact a qualified intellectual property attorney. Keep in mind, the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office maintain records only and are not law enforcement agencies. The Internet through social media has made the world a lot smaller and the chance of your intellectual property being used in a manner that is harmful to your business is significant. You may need an attorney who can litigate intellectual property matters in order to protect your business today and for the future. You can contact The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth to help protect your intellectual property rights. We will be happy to do a free assessment of your case and help you determine the best way to proceed.