Widespread caution that a spate of cybersquatting would ensue once social networking site Facebook offered users the opportunity to apply for a personal URL address, appears to have been unfounded.
While there had been several cases of users creating vanity URLs with the names of celebrities, companies and even royalty, there had been no significant disputes to date.
Middletons lawyer, Jonathan Feder, said this was largely the result of Facebook instituting a number of precautionary measures before opening up the URLs to users on June 13.
Facebook would not permit the use of generic terms, such as chocolate or football, in personalised URLs and the URLs were not transferable, which removed the risk of users registering well known trademarks in order to sell them back to the companies in question.
Most importantly, trade mark owners could have a personalised URL removed from Facebook if it included their trade mark or a similar name.
UK website Ireland Online reported last week that a number of vanity URLs had been registered by Facebook users, including facebook.com/princecharles and facebook.com/peachesgeldof, however measures had already been taken to remove them.
Facebook had also urged trade mark owners to register their trademarks with the network before the personal URLs became available on June 13, to help prevent inappropriate use.
Feder said Middletons had offered advice and assistance to clients who were keen to protect their presence on the popular site, but take up had been low. However, he said this was most likely because the process of registering a trademark was so simple, clients would have done it themselves.
Feder said the growing popularity of social media, including Facebook and Twitter had established them as important marketing tools, making it essential for companies to protect their presence on the sites.
“It is another way for companies to access their consumer base and target certain demographics,” he said.
Feder said that while Facebook had taken appropriate measures to avoid significant problems , cybersquatting continued to be a very real problem for corporations and individuals.
“At Middletons I handle two or three cases a month where someone has registered a similar domain name to that of the client and are offering similar services, in an attempt to divert traffic away from the client’s website to their own,” he said.