THURSDAY 16 OCT 2014 1:36 PM


A recent action from Wyke Farms could signify a new era in trademarking. The UK-based cheese company has successfully trademarked its popular social media campaign called ‘Free Cheese Friday’, making it the first ever UK brand to register a trademark based on the popularity of a social media campaign.

The weekly online competition to win Wyke Farms vintage cheddar runs across Facebook and Twitter under the hashtag #freecheesefriday. Since its inception four years ago the competition has grown through sharing, and now sees 25,000 people a month engaging online.

Rich Clothier, managing director and third generation family member at Wyke Farms, says, “The influence of social media networks is not to be underestimated. At Wyke, social media remains a core part of our communications strategy and is something that we have invested in for several years now. We have seen numerous benefits - increased brand recognition, improved brand loyalty, improved sales and smarter customer insight - this is why we decided it was time to protect our brand by trademarking our competition.”

The news could mark the beginning of a new pattern in trademarking with companies choosing to claim ownership of their digital campaigns. The ‘Free Cheese Friday’ trademark was registered on the basis that it has acquired distinctiveness; a sizeable portion of which was created through use of a hashtag.

Ashley Benjamin, trade mark attorney at Dehns, says, “This is not new or ground-breaking. It is well established that a strong social media following can help secure trade mark protection. Trade mark offices have discretion to grant registration for inherently ‘non-distinctive’ trade marks - which tends to include most slogans - if there is compelling evidence of distinctiveness acquired through use. Such evidence can naturally include evidence of social media activity, as well as more traditional forms of promotion, and this is certainly not the first time a mark has been successfully registered on the basis of social media use. Of course, it can be much harder to control how a brand is used on social media, so extra care must be taken when relying on social media evidence.  Where a brand has been used by social media followers in an overtly descriptive or generic way, this can potentially make it harder for the brand owner to obtain a trade mark registration.”


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