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How Someone Ripped off Our Twitter Name and We Fought Back

You’ve probably read our StartupNation advice about how to leverage the value of social media to benefit your business. (You can listen to a first and second podcast on this subject, too.)

But a word of warning: What you may not know–and should be prepared to overcome–is that just like there are squatters on website domain names, there are squatters on Twitter and Facebook nicknames, too.

In fact, such a scenario played out here at StartupNation back in April (and was concluded in that timeframe) when we realized that not only was someone squatting on our name on Twitter, but that person was periodically linking to content at our site and acting as if he was us. The situation became ever more serious as he built followers who thought they were getting Tweets from StartupNation when it was really a poser who had his own agenda to develop his own following using our name, content, branding in the market, etc.

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It was potentially a very dangerous position for our brand to be in – we had lost control of our own message.

So here’s what I did (and if you run into this situation, you might use the same steps):

  1. I immediately sent him a direct message on Twitter asking who he was;
  2. I also sent direct messages to people who had begun following the poser, explaining that he’s not the real deal and to stay tuned for the real StartupNation Tweets that would begin as soon as the situation was rectified;
  3. Upon receiving the poser’s Twitter response, I asked for his email address (to get past the character length limitations of Twitter); 
  4. I told him in an email that he was causing confusion in the marketplace by using our name and Tweeting our content. I asked him to stop immediately and that we take over the StartupNation twitter name immediately;
  5. Here’s what he wrote back to me, clearly trying to “gently” extort StartupNation for money when in fact he was infringing on our trademarked name:

    Hello,My name is Robert G[xxxxxx] and I’m a 23 year old student.  I’ve been a huge fan of Startupnation ever since it started, and to tell you the truth I honor the work you do and see you as a role model for young entrepreneurs such as myself.  I was very surprised not to see Startupnation on twitter when I first started, so I decided to take the matter into my own hand and create the account. 

    I’ve been promoting a positive company image ever since.I understand that legal procedures to take over the account can be lengthy, costly, time consuming and down right ugly. 

    To speed the process up I am proposing an account take over.I am asking for $15,000 to be transferred into my PayPal account (r[xxxxxxxx]@gmail.com) at which point I will assign “startupnation” twitter user name to an email account of your choice.  This matter can be taken care of within minutes.

    Each day that goes by can result in hundreds of followers. Twitter is a very powerful asset that will help your company communicate with current customers and help gain new ones.
    One thing I want you to understand is that I am looking to rip anyone off, I am simply looking for funds to start my own business. Venture Capitalists investments are at a 12 year low right now, and you can only image how hard it is to acquire outside investments in this economy. 

     

    Feel free to email me with your decision.

     

    Sincerely,

    Robert G[xxxxxxx]

      

  6. As soon as I received this, I realized I was dealing with someone who didn’t know (or care?) that he had fallen on the wrong side of trademark law. Whether his intentions were good or malicious, this was not his call to make and he certainly chose a foolish path to try to get paid for the name. So, I contacted Twitter directly. I used the link found on this Terms of Service page at Twitter; 
  7. Twitter responded within 48 hours asking for confirmation that StartupNation owned the trademark for use of our name, which I produced for them by visiting www.uspto.gov, searching for our Trademark, and sending them the direct link confirming assignment to us;
  8. Within days, Twitter took action. They booted the poser and returned the rights to use “StartupNation”  on Twitter to us.

Ever since then (April of 2009), we’ve been posting regularly and building our following.

You can check us out at StartupNation on Twitter. And you can be confident that it’s the “real McCoy”.

And whether or not you want to follow us on Twitter, hopefully this chronology of how somone tried to rip off our name and how we fought back (and you can, too) will be helpful in your use of Twitter.

Onward!

About the Author: Rich Sloan

Rich Sloan is chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation and host of StartupNation podcasts. He is also co-author of the acclaimed how-to book, StartupNation: America's Leading Entrepreneurial Experts Reveal the Secrets to Building a Blockbuster Business. Rich encourages you to [...]

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