YouTube trademark infringement occurs when a YouTube account uses the trademark of another in a way that causes marketplace confusion. Any word, slogan, symbol, or combination of elements that distinguishes a product from other products is a trademark. A business or entity legally acquires a trademark, which gives them exclusive rights to use the symbol, name, or slogan in question.

What Is Trademark Infringement?

Unauthorized or improper use of a trademark that causes confusion in the marketplace constitutes trademark infringement. YouTube has policies in place that prohibit creators that use the platform from infringing on the trademarks of others. Channels that upload trademark-infringing content can have their videos blocked and/or their channels suspended. 

YouTube is not the right outlet through which to mediate trademark disputes if you believe a YouTube account has violated your trademark. However, you can report infringement violations through the platform using a system that YouTube has put in place. You may get faster, more amenable results if you contact the infringing account directly. YouTube has a private messaging feature that can be used for this purpose. If contacting the perpetrator does not lead to a resolution, you can then submit a trademark complaint form. 

In the near future, you may be able to register your real name as a YouTube URL. When it comes to business names, YouTube cannot mediate trademark disputes if the businesses in question are in different industries. If you have your own YouTube channel, you are probably aware that copyright claims are common. This occurs when YouTube indicates that the person who uploaded a video is violating the copyright of specific elements in the video, such as music.

Submit a Trademark Complaint

YouTube will review and respond to reasonable trademark complaints and remove clearly infringing content. They will give the accused infringer the opportunity to address trademark issues before removing the video in question.  You can submit trademark complaints to YouTube via postal mail, email, or fax. A counterfeit complaint should be filed if your issue relates to counterfeit goods being sold or promoted through the platform. Copyright complaints are appropriate when the copied work in question is a book, movie, song, or other previously published work.

Trademark Complaint Requirements

YouTube offers an easy reporting form through which you can file a trademark complaint. You'll need to provide the following details:

  • Your information, including your legal name, company name, the name of the trademark owner and your relationship to him or her, and an address, telephone number, or email address where you can be contacted
  • The details of the trademark, including the jurisdiction where it is registered
  • The trademark registration number and grounds for use-based rights, if any
  • The specific URLs of the channels and/or videos that infringe on your trademark
  • The details of the alleged infringement
  • The legal affirmations that you believe that the use of your trademark is unauthorized and not permissible by law, that the information you have provided is correct and true, and that you consent to your complaint being forwarded to the alleged infringer
  • Your physical or electronic signature

By filling out this complaint form, you agree that YouTube may forward your information to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. They may publicly post a notice about your submission but will remove any of your personal contact information before doing so.

How to Claim Your Trademark on YouTube

Creatives should be concerned about the fact that just about any phrase can be legally trademarked. Content that includes a trademarked phrase can then be removed from YouTube. For example, a YouTube creator known as Devin SuperTramp got 400,000 views in 36 hours for a video partially titled "People Are Awesome." The video was subsequently removed because another company trademarked that common phrase. 

Little case law currently exists on trademark infringement via social networks like YouTube. Most cases are resolved through YouTube dispute mechanisms or mediation, and few go to court. For this reason, it's much easier to accuse others of social media trademark infringement than it is to recover handles that were not trademarked. When you decide on a product, brand, or company name, reserve social media profiles right away.

If you need help with YouTube trademark infringement, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.