Businesses that want to trademark a hashtag often go through the trademark process, so they can protect what they consider to be their intellectual property.

What Is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a pound sign or hash character (#), followed by a word or phrase. Hashtags are used on social media to help categorize the content of the post. On social media, posts containing hashtags can be searched by keyword, and groups of posts can be created that are based on certain topics or interests. When businesses use hashtags, they can promote their services and products, engage with customers and consumers, and share news through social media platforms.

Are Hashtags Intellectual Property?

Twitter was the first social media platform to start using hashtags. Since then, the use of hashtags has spread to Instagram, Google+, and Facebook. Additionally, people use hashtags in regular communication, not just on social media. When a tweet contains a hashtag, audience engagement in that tweet can be doubled. For businesses, using hashtags is an important aspect of their marketing and engagement strategies.

A hashtag is too short to be considered for copyright protection. It isn't an invention or idea that would be subject to protection under patent laws. Therefore, the only option to protect a hashtag is filing for trademark protection.


A trademark is a design, word, symbol, phrase, or a combination of these that can distinguish the services or products of one organization or individual from the services or products of another.

Trademarks have two main purposes:

  • Giving businesses an incentive to provide quality services and products
  • Helping consumers to identify where services or products are coming from, which is a form of protection

The owner of a trademark has the exclusive right to use the mark on its goods or packaging, as well as in connection with its services. Although trademark rights in the United States are connected to the use of the mark, registering your mark on a federal level will increase the rights to use it. 

Benefits of registering your trademark include:

  • The exclusive right and privilege to use the mark on a national basis on products and services
  • Use of the registered symbol ®
  • Nationwide notice of trademark registration
  • Improved protection for domain names
  • Inclusion in trademark searches on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website
  • Legal ownership of the mark
  • Foreign trademark registration facilitation in more than 50 countries (offered through the Madrid Protocol)
  • The option to register with U.S. Customs to prevent confusingly similar or counterfeit products from being imported into the U.S.
  • Incontestable legal status (comes after the trademark has been registered for five years)
  • Potential monetary remedies from an infringer, including legal fees, damages, profits, treble damages, and cost

Trademarking Hashtags

According to the USPTO's definition, a hashtag is a phrase or word that includes the hash or pound symbol as its prefix. Some examples include #SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) and #Chicago. Hashtags are commonly used on social media platforms to facilitate a search for a topic or keyword. A hashtag can also identify the content or topic of a post.

When determining whether a hashtag can be registered and protected under trademark laws, USPTO reviewers look at several factors:

  • Types of services or goods being identified
  • Context
  • Use of the hashtag
  • Where the hash symbol is placed in the mark

The types of services or goods being identified have an impact on whether the hashtag qualifies for trademark protection. A generic word or description will not be eligible. For example, if an ice cream shop used #icecream on all of its social media posts, this would be too generic. It doesn't clearly state the ice cream's source. Instead, it only identifies the class of product.

As the reviewers look at the context, they will determine whether it fits the requirements for trademark protection. In one example, a sewing company submitted an application to register #SEWFUN for use around sewing classes. This company used the mark on social media platforms to categorize and organize comments from users about the classes. In this case, the USPTO did not register the hashtag as it was not functioning as a trademark. The hashtag's placement will also impact whether it is protectable. 

If you need help to trademark a hashtag, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.