Whilst the build-up to Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier each year, for many of us the first sign of the festive season is the onslaught of adverts that hit our TV screens and attempt to tug on our heartstrings.
Whether it is the first sight of the Coca-Cola truck in the nostalgia-inducing ‘Holidays are Coming’ (the ad originally appeared in the UK back in 1995!) – or the annual Marks and Spencer campaign, which this year features Paddington Bear, the tradition of instantly recognisable Christmas adverts designed to loosen our purse strings will resume this November and continue throughout December. Indeed, John Lewis’ Christmas adverting campaigns have gained popularity each year since they started in 2007 and they have become a phenomenon within British popular culture and on social media, with fans and critics alike eagerly awaiting this year’s instalment.
As there has been a noticeable shift in TV audiences moving to online platforms, many viewers will first see the latest John Lewis ad on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. Interestingly, consumers wanting a sneak-peak of the ad will have to visit @JohnLewisRetail on Twitter because the handle @JohnLewis actually belongs to an American computer science educator and father of four who, in his own Twitter profile, makes it clear that he is “not a retail store”.
Whilst Mr. Lewis seems to enjoy the confusion of John Lewis customers who visit his Twitter page, the fact that such a well-known company does not control the handle most likely to be associated with its brand represents a problem often faced by businesses in today’s online world.
If you or your business cannot use the Twitter handle that you think associates with your business, you may miss out on potential customers and risk causing confusion over who owns your brand. Whilst Twitter forbids the sale of accounts, there are other ways that a company can obtain a profile which relates to their business:
- Kindly ask the user of your desired handle if they would be willing to give it up – this reportedly worked for the owners of @workable
- If you are a company, try adding Ltd or Plc to the end of your handle – for example BP use @BP_plc
- If this fails, try a similar handle with a slight difference – for example, vox.com uses @VoxDotCom
- Keep an eye on the current handle user – if they ever delete their account, the handle will become available for you to use.
- Register a trade mark. If you have a trade mark, and can demonstrate that the handle user is using your company name in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation, you can ask Twitter to enforce its trade mark policy and require the user to give up the handle.
This last solution only works in the case of trade mark infringement. Therefore, unless @JohnLewis starts using the handle in a way that is likely to make consumers believe he is John Lewis the retail chain, @JohnLewisRetail will have to be content with their handle and continue to engage their customers from this profile.
DMH Stallard has a team of intellectual property specialists who can advise and assist further on the range of IP enforcement options available for clients. For further information, please contact: