Leveraging the Power of Open Trademarks And IP on Social Media

/ October 20, 2021 | 6 Mins Read

Leveraging the Power of Open Trademarks And IP on Social Media

Is brand control all it's cracked up to be? Find out how some of the hottest social media marketers are making more while protecting their trademarks less.

Corporate offices and big businesses are generally concerned about protecting their intellectual property, and there's certainly good reasons for them to do so. Some bad actors online might try to impersonate them if their trademarks aren't legally locked down. There's always the threat of someone making false claims or even attempting to actively besmirch another company if they don't have some form of IP protection in place. This is even before the whole issue of piracy comes into the mix.

Before you think about investing in more IP protections and filing for additional trademark rulings, stop and consider whether or not you might be stifling creativity in the process. When individual fans connect with a brand, they might start to create derivative works based on a brand that they feel a strong connection to. This is how science fiction and comic book fans have helped to keep the brands they love afloat for so long.

While you might not be working on the next great superhero movie, there's a good chance that fan work could help to further promote your brand in ways that you never thought possible. Good communication with those that you're trying to reach is extremely important if you plan to leverage the power of this kind of campaign.

Framing Your Messages in an Open Way

Before you try to actually foster a group of people willing to make fan works based around your brand, you'll want to put more thought into whether or not you've been too aggressive with copyright claims so far. Content creators will naturally want to protect their property to at least some degree, but you're not going to make too many friends on social media if your organization has been known for filing a great number of take down claims from social video sharing sites. Think twice before you do this and consider writing an apology letter when the time comes that you need to do so.

That can help to provide an opportunity for your brand to reach out to other people who might have been interested in it previously and now may feel offended. Doing so can smooth things over while, at the same time, giving you a rare opportunity to market to a group that would have otherwise been unreachable. That's a very powerful combination, and it's one you could theoretically leverage to enlist influencers as well.

Decisions regarding whether or not to trademark certain gestures on TikTok have generated a lot of buzz because they simultaneously reduce the amount of people who can legally do something while, at the same time, help to protect the individual brands that some influencers have come up with. If you have to reach out to someone to tell them that they're breaching your trademark rights on social media, then you might want to extend an olive branch by recruiting them as someone who can work with you to share opinions online.

Regardless of which direction you decide to go in, it's vital that you make sure to use efficient communication tools in order to stay in touch with all of the people you come into contact with.

Modernizing the Way Your Brand Communicates

Quite a few people rely almost totally on their legal departments in order to manage their brand-related communications. To some extent, that's understandable because any comments that are made in a social media post could look like someone was giving permission to do something when they really weren't. The problem is that social networks move far too quickly for this kind of technique to be truly effective.

Consider investing in an organization that provides a contact center as a service, so that you can be sure that you'll always be able to take requests in a timely manner. Some larger organizations will want to manage all of their communications this way, regardless of whether or not they have anything to do with brand-related requests or social media. Corporate agencies usually have a specific department to handle these requests, but working with a group that provides an outside call center can help to alleviate stress on these departments.

Data analysis and research is another field that you might want to consider outsourcing if you're working on this kind of campaign. By taking these issues off the table and passing them off to another outside organization, you're reducing the risk that someone from the legal department might get involved with any attempt to leverage the power of open IP online.

Small and growing businesses might not have to concern themselves with all of the communications baggage that bigger firms might have. Established companies have a tendency to become set in their ways, while startups can build themselves from square one. Those who are in charge of such companies might consider building an open brand from the beginning.

Switching to a Truly Open Brand Platform

Open brand design doesn't necessarily mean that your logo is released under a Creative Commons license or that everything you create is GPL-certified, though individuals who feel very strongly about patent reform might give you plenty of publicity on social media if that were the case. You can build a relatively open brand by only enforcing trademark and IP registrations online when it's absolutely necessary. Unless people are actively attempting to link to counterfeit items, then social posts involving your brand might better be left alone.

Doing this could actually cause some aspects of your brand's IP to start trending on a social network, especially if it were to get shared as part of a meme or other kind of graphical post. Imagine if someone started to make fun of your brand and shared their joke all over Facebook and Instagram. Chances are that you wouldn't want to put a stop to that no matter what you might think it would do to your brand image because it's going to give you a lot of free publicity.

Consider trying to post some extra materials like that as part of a guerrilla marketing tactic. If you can make it look like others are mocking your brand and nothing is putting a stop to it, then the self-deprecating humor can actually do you a world of good. Though that seems somewhat paradoxical, it's actually a good thing. Even better is to create some content that you give away for free in a way that fewer small business owners are.

Free as in Freedom, Not Price

The free and open source software community has long distinguished between things that are free as in price and those that are free in terms of liberty. Consider releasing some of your materials under a Creative Commons or related license and you may find that you get a number of links back to your brand from an unexpected place. While you're giving something away using this model, those who edit it and redistribute it have to provide at least some attribution in order to do so.

Over time, people who come across the materials you post might start to head back to your own site irrespective of where they found them. This works especially well for those who compose music or produce videos. Assume that someone filmed an entire presentation and released it under a Creative Commons license with a request for attribution. Those who follow the rules and provide it will help to drive traffic back to the original creator's site even if it ends up getting posted on social media sites that have nothing to do with where it was originally shared.

Even those who don't follow these rules could potentially contribute to the success of the original organization that created the video. Unless they completely edit out the credits roll, there's always going to be at least something telling people to visit a site again. This is usually just too much work for anyone who is already inclined to simply make copies of any material that they found online.

Some might even think to mention their site or brand several times in such a production, which would increase the chances that they could always get at least some portion of these somewhat unofficial viewers to come over and visit the original creator. In many cases, releasing material this way ensures that it'll have a life of its own that could stretch far beyond the original span of any marketing campaign that created it.

Why Open Content Lasts So Long

Materials that don't have any onerous copy restrictions associated with them tend to survive much longer on social media than those that do. By being able to make copies, people are simply freer to spread a message, so they'll start to ignore materials that they can't share as freely. Copy-protected digital materials have a tendency to slip into obscurity as proprietary formats no longer function with modern devices. That's why pirated content is still shared on Facebook in spite of the fact that nearly 78 percent of copyrighted content on the platform gets removed.

People are willing to share it because it's so easy. DRM, in some cases, can make people simply reluctant to share things and they therefore tend to be forgotten about. There's a strong possibility that you want to encourage people to share your brand and talk about it. Therefore, the next time you want to release a big project on social media, consider making it a little more open than your last one.

It might just help your content to find an audience you'd never otherwise even knew existed.

Philip Piletic primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. I’m a writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites. In love with startups, the latest tech trends and helping others get their ideas off the ground. You can find Philip Piletic on LinkedIn.

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