IP Cases & Articles

Social media – devising and protecting your online presence from the outset

In the context of social media, one of the most important assets to a streamer is their online persona, through which they engage with their follower base. Integral to this online persona is any handle and/or proposed logo which the streamer chooses to embody themselves with. Often however, such handles and logos can be devised without sufficient foresight, which can then cause headaches later on through them conflicting with an existing right held by another entity. At the worst end of the spectrum, this can then necessitate a complete rebrand of the streamer’s online persona, leading to a potential reduction in their follower base.

Selecting and protecting your streamer handle and logo

To help avoid some of these potential problems, the following steps may be of assistance when developing an online persona - including any proposed streamer handle and logo.

Step 1: Pick an initial streamer handle and logo

Naturally, the first step is to pick a handle. Often, inspiration for this handle can come from the name of the streamer themselves; from one of their traits or hobbies; or perhaps even an encounter from their life.

Whatever the initial inspiration however, an important first consideration in picking the handle is to make sure that it is compatible with the content(s) on which the handle is intended to be used. For instance, if the proposed handle has special characters in it, are these characters compatible with the content on which the streamer intends to interact with? For instance, if the streamer is intending to interact with particular video games, do these have a minimum/maximum username length which will be compatible with the proposed handle?

Another consideration for any proposed handle is to make sure that it might not be perceived as offensive or disparaging. Whilst this may sound trivial/obvious, it does bear thinking about – particularly if the handle might be construed, or interpreted, differently in another language beyond that which the streamer intends to primarily use.

It is also advisable to ensure that any selected streamer handle does not ride on the coat tails of an existing entity. In this respect, there are often streamer handles which provide a direct reference to the content on which they are intended to be used. Whilst this may seem beneficial at first, in so far as it can initially help followers more easily identify where the content’s focus is, from a commercial perspective picking such handles can make them more difficult to commercialise later on.

Instead, content handles which can be more effective in the long run include those which have a more arbitrary or fanciful name, and which bear little meaning when read in isolation. Take for example the handles of Swedish YouTuber “PewDiePie” or Canadian Twitch streamer “xQc”. These handles are particularly effective, since in isolation they do not clearly read onto anything, nor do they have significant clear meaning in their own right. As well, the handles are attractive since they are short, and so are easy to remember.

The above considerations relating to a streamer handle also apply to any proposed logo which the streamer might choose to be graphically represented by. As to what this logo might depict, a logo can often relate to the proposed streamer or their streamer handle in some way. For instance, the logo may depict a graphical representation of the streamer in real life, or could have some synergy with the proposed streamer handle. A good example of this synergy can be seen in respect of the logo employed by the streamer "DisguisedToast" who uses a logo in the form of a piece of toast with a moustache and eyeglasses on it (to help disguise the piece of toast).

Whatever logo is proposed though, like with any proposed streamer handle, the important consideration is that care should be taken to ensure that this logo is sufficiently unique, and is not riding on the coat tails of an existing entity, for instance is not depicting any protagonists or symbols/logos from any proposed game/company in which the logo is intended to be employed in conjunction with.

Equally, and where any logo is devised, if the design of the logo has not been solely performed by the streamer, and has instead been outsourced to a third party, care should be taken to make sure that any intellectual property rights (such as copyright, and unregistered design rights) which might subsist in this logo are appropriately transferred to the streamer intending to use the logo. This can then avoid problems later on, from the third party otherwise then seeking compensation from any use of the logo and its associated intellectual property. An adviser who specialises in intellectual property, such as a trade mark attorney or a solicitor, can help prepare any legal documentation to help effect this ownership transfer of the intellectual property from the third party to the streamer.

Step 2: sweep for evidence of the streamer handle and logo being used already

Once a proposed streamer handle has been selected, the next step is to perform checks to verify whether this streamer handle, or something similar to it, is already being employed elsewhere (and not necessarily in the sector in which the streamer intends to operate).

As to what such checks might consist of, at a basic level they should include a search of the proposed streamer handle on various different internet search engines to see whether any search results come back. If the various searches bring back no search results, this is often a good first sign.

At a more advanced level, such searches could also relate to slight variants of the proposed streamer handle, in a bid to better identify whether anything similar to the handle is already in existence. Again, if such additional search results come back clear, this can often be a positive sign.

Equally, if a logo is proposed to go with the streamer handle, image searches of this logo should also be employed to better gauge the similarity of this logo to any images/logos already in existence, such as to see if this logo is suitably unique.

At the most comprehensive end, the above searches could also include more formalised checks to see if the proposed handle and/or logo conflicts with any existing registered intellectual property rights held by others. For instance, this might include a trade mark or a design registration which is already in existence in the geographical territories which the streamer intends to commercialise in. Whilst these searches may seem excessive, failure to perform them at an early stage can potentially give rise to future headaches if it then turns out that a conflicting registered intellectual property right exists. The importance of the above searches cannot be overemphasized.

In so far as the above searches are employed, the use of an intellectual property specialist, such as a trade mark attorney or a solicitor, may be particularly helpful, since they will be able to more effectively advise on the relevance of any results which come back from the searches.

Step 3: stake the claim

Once satisfied that a chosen streamer handle is seemingly well clear of anything currently in existence, the next step is to consider grabbing the related social media space for this handle as quickly as possible. Whether this be YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, it is worth securing the social media space for the handle on all of the relevant social media platforms from the very outset (and importantly whilst no-one else is aware of the handle name). In this way, even if there is no intention to use the streamer handle on all of these platforms initially, performing this initial land-grab of the related social media space better prevents someone else (either coincidentally, or more maliciously) taking ownership of the space instead.

Social media aside, similar considerations apply to website domains. Accordingly, once a streamer handle has been finalised, it is worth securing a related website domain(s) in respect of the handle – such as a .com domain name. In this respect, it is much easier, and less costly, to secure any required website domains from the outset, rather than try to secure them off from someone else later on.

Registering any devised streamer handle and logo using appropriate intellectual property rights can also be an invaluable protective measure to adopt.

Such intellectual property might include trade mark protection in respect of the streamer handle and/or the logo (though care should be taken to consider in relation to what specific goods/services the handle or logo will be used to designate origin). In that respect, alongside seeking any trade mark protection in areas where the streamer may be directly operating in (noting trade mark protection is sought in respect of particular goods and services), it may also be prudent to consider whether any such trade mark protection might also be extended to other areas which the streamer may envisage marketing themselves in the future, such as in the context of clothing, or perhaps food and drink? If these plans are in the pipeline, it pays to have them covered with appropriate protection as early as possible.

As far as many parts of Europe are concerned (including the UK, Germany, and the EU more widely), registered design protection may also be an additional cost-effective tool for better protecting the appearance of any logo which has been created (and importantly not disclosed to the public for any significant period of time).

Again, an adviser who specialises in intellectual property can provide a steer as to how such forms of intellectual property might be best capitalised on.

Step 4: take the persona forward

By implementing the above groundwork, any proposed streamer handle and logo will be that much better protected, and so will place the streamer in a much better position from which to develop their online persona moving forward.

For those seeking guidance on the above, or for ways to better strengthen their online persona, do reach out to an intellectual property specialist; you may be surprised to find out what you are missing out on!

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