You’ve spent countless hours collecting data, brainstorming, probing, and problem-solving. You’ve finally committed to a business name and have the branding and domain purchased. You’d like to start implementing an online presence with social media accounts (after all, it’s the easiest way for customers to connect with your business), and bam—you discover inactive accounts.
An inactive account is different from a suspended account; inactive accounts are currently on the platform but aren’t regularly used. These might include Facebook pages with minimal content (or very outdated content), Twitter accounts without any following, or Instagram accounts lacking any content at all. Suspended accounts are any username that went against the terms of service significantly, resulting in a permanent ban. You’re unlikely to recover any account that has been permanently banned from the social media site. Truthfully, you probably don’t want whatever stigma is connected to that account either.
Knowing how to claim an inactive username depends on whether you have a registered trademark. A trademark can be applied for online through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You’ll need to follow the steps outlined carefully, as errors or omissions can cost you time and money.
Assuming you have a trademark
Thankfully, having a trademark can make your acquisition of the username a little less complicated. Most social media platforms provide a simple-to-follow procedure for those wanting to try and secure an inactive account. These reports will fall under impersonating another person or business, which is protected by trademark law. These violations include any account used in a manner that intentionally misleads or confuses people. This infringement can consist of a business name, logo, or protected materials.
What you need to file the report
To file a report with the social media channel, you’ll need several pieces of information. This information includes your company name, alleged confusing activity (for example, using your business name, using your company logo, or similar allegations), trademark, trademark registration number, and the action you’d like the company to take. Requests can include suspending the profile, removing the account, or releasing the account name.
If the company page in question deliberately imitates your business, the social media platform is likely to rule in your favor. This ruling suggests the platform will delete the account, remove the current account holder, and release the username.
If the business is not imitating or attempting to confuse viewers (for example, if the company exists in another country), the social media platform will not take any action against the account.
Probability of Success?
Username availability can be a difficult path for new businesses and entrepreneurs trying to limit damage from potential impersonators. Unfortunately, only Facebook has proven reliable when it comes to infringing on the trademark. The turnaround time for involvement is often days, with a response generated within hours. Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok seem to take several weeks to investigate, with some social media platforms not addressing trademark infringement at all.
You Don’t Have a Trademark
Without a trademark, your attempts at removing a social media account are significantly impacted. You can’t show that you are the actual business owner, even if you’ve got a business registration and domain. If the account is currently inactive, platforms recommend securing a new username. Alternatively, you can try to contact the account holder directly, sending them a message online. Some users completely forget that they own a page/profile, having a collection of pages collecting dust. A polite message may be enough to convince them to transfer the page over to your account.
This method isn’t always successful, but you’re out of luck if a user isn’t agreeable. Likewise, page squatters are typical with popular or highly desirable usernames. In this situation, individuals will secure multiple usernames on a social media platform to resell them to businesses or individuals at a premium cost. Although some social media channels have banned the practice, making it a risky transaction for both the buyer and the seller.
Probability of Success?
Without a trademark, you’re leaving your business open to potential threats and risks online. One of those risks is an inactive username preventing you from establishing your brand online. While you can most definitely attempt negotiating with the current account holder, there’s minimal chance of success overall. Most users will want payment for the username if they want to part with the handle at all.
However, you’re always able to report these profiles for impersonation. These reports are less significant than reports of trademark infringement and hold less ground legally too. Without the trademark, social media platforms are less likely to take action against an account. This means you’ll ultimately have less headache creating a new username than you will trying to recover an inactive account.