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Facebook Faces Trouble With Vanity Names

June 16, 2009

With more than 200 million registered users, Facebook has become one of the most important web properties and it was clear that vanity user page names, instead of cryptic number codes, would cause a rush among the user base.

According to Facebook, more than 500,000 names were claimed within the first fifteen minutes of launch on June 13, 12:01 AM EDT. The number topped one million within the first hour. By Sunday morning, more than three million names were gone.

Facebook’s offer was limited to personal accounts as well as group and fan pages with at least 1000 members as of May 31, 2009 to prevent cyber-squatting. All pages created after May 31, 2009 or that had less than 1000 fans on that day will be eligible to claim usernames on Sunday, June 28, 2009, the company said.

Users who transitioned their original page link to a vanity name link are stuck with that name/link, as Facebook said a change or transfer is no longer possible.

Lawyers apparently are already getting into gear to see whether there may be a lawsuit possible against Facebook. Cyber-squatting is the main concern. Attorneys Lynn Humphreys and Cathleen Stadecker said that companies or groups with trademarked names can block squatters and interlopers from using their brands by following online registration protocols that Facebook has set up, but they also stated that “It remains to be seen exactly how Facebook will evaluate the validity of particular requests for protection.”

Facebook has published an automated IP infringement form, which individuals, businesses and other organizations can use to request removal of a user name.

While they recognize that Facebook “explicitly reserved the right to remove and/or reclaim any user name at any time, for any reason,” they also stated that all is “all well and good”, but add that it remains unclear “how individual infringement claims relating to user names will be processed and resolved.”

Smells like a lawsuit to me.

How about you?

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