Avatar Names: Should you Trademark yours?

TMAfter reading about Opensource Obscure’s run-in with Google+ (also covered here), I was pondering the following question: As (presumably) authors writing under pen names and SAG actors who are required to act under a previously unused name would be allowed to use their assumed names on google+, how do they protect their names from misuse.

Certainly, some (at least one) atomic persons have applied for and been granted a trademark (even registered!) for their avatar’s name. Would it be worth registering such a trademark? Would a Servicemark be more apropos for an author? What about “Doing Business As” arrangements? A US federal trademark registration is approximately $300, a state-filed trademark registration is $50 and a DBA in my city is $60  all for various terms, all not counting things like notarization, postage, etc.

I guess the real question isn’t about what is possible so much as what makes sense. Go to it!

6 Replies to “Avatar Names: Should you Trademark yours?”

  1. Given that kind of expense, I think you’d have to have a *really* good reason. And I’m not sure the ability to join Facebook would qualify. (Given Zuckerberg’s stated positions on identity and pseudonymity, I actually think FB would still ban you regardless of the trademark/DBA, unless you are an actual celebrity.)

    And of course, if one of the reasons for someone preferring a pseudonym is the anonymity, getting a trademark/DBA (whose ownership is publically searchable) would invalidate the anonymity. At that point, you might as well publish your RL name and address in the 1st Life tab.

  2. Oh, and if Google+ ever complains about my use of an avatar name, I’m going to tell them the following:

    Despite the fact that it is not my legal name, Redwood Rhiadra is the name known to the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances. While my coworkers use my real name, I do not interact with them outside of office hours, and none of them use social media to my knowledge. (Kind of odd for a tech company, I know.) My family members are relatively tech-phobic and do not use anything beyond email. So my pseudonym is actually the most likely name people would be using when trying to find me on a social network like Google+, and therefore should be permitted according to the Google Profiles TOS.

  3. Hah! Perhaps all your tech company coworkers use pseudonyms online!

    The celebrity angle is interesting because there really isn’t a bright line – how popular do you have to be before you can use your pseudonym?

    The bottom line for me is that while the association between my RL and SL names is trivially knowable, the appropriate name to use in context is almost always obvious… when one’s social circles only touch at a few points and you are known *consistently* by different names, what *should* FB/etc do to support you? From a purely economic perspective, FB/G+/whatever would lose a significant portion of my network if they cut off my SL accounts – I would not just add my SL contacts to my RL FB. I’d be more likely to abandon FB for that content stream altogether.

    Which company is going to be first to market with social media for people with multiple personality disorder??

  4. Hah! Perhaps all your tech company coworkers use pseudonyms online!

    Actually, when I’ve tried to explain things like Twitter or SL to my coworkers, they just say “what’s the point?” They just don’t see the point of anything beyond email and web forums.

    It’s very bizarre to me.

  5. And I bet the popularity line is “popular enough that your pseudonym has a Wikipedia page that hasn’t been deleting for lack of notability”.

    Either that or “popular enough that the FB employee looking at your account recognizes you”.

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