While we’re familiar with celebrity athletes, musicians and actors registering their names as trade marks in relation to merchandise and business ventures outside the ‘day job’, social media influencers have been much slower to realise the importance of retaining control over the use of their own name.
The value of trade marks
Today, businesses are willing to pay influencers huge sums to promote products to their extensive base of followers, often through lucrative ‘sponsorship deals’. An influencer’s ‘brand’ is frequently their name or the name they use when posting online, so this is an extremely important and valuable asset. One way to protect this asset is to register it as a trade mark. Some influencers, such as Mrs Hinch — cleaning expert Sophie Hinchliffe — have taken this step.
Trade mark registrations help to prevent unauthorised third parties from using your name for their own benefit — for example, releasing products under your name, trading on the back of your following or putting out inferior content for purposes of damaging the influencer’s reputation. Having a trade mark registration also makes it easier to take down infringing content or confusing social media handles and avatars.
A trade mark application must be filed in relation to particular goods or services, which can be an issue if the influencer does not have their own range of goods or services. There are however particular services which can be covered in a trade mark application and which cover the activities of influencers, namely promoting the goods and services of others; endorsement services.
Protection creates opportunities
Many influencers will be finding life difficult in the current climate, as marketing spend is cut and launches cancelled. Particularly hardest hit will be those whose income depends on posting sponsored images from exotic locations – as travel becomes impossible – and those who promote privileged lifestyles to their followers, as for many this is no longer even aspirational.
So, does the current crisis spell the end of the influencer? It would seem not, since lockdown is giving influencers more opportunity than ever to engage with audiences, as people are spending significantly more time on social media.
If influencers can evolve or ‘pivot’ their businesses to understand what it is that their audiences need at the moment, this could be a very successful period for them. It may also open up greater opportunities for partnerships and sponsorships.
Now more than ever, it is important for influencers to do what they can to protect their brand.
For advice on protecting your brand, please get in touch with us.