Why would you want to use another company’s trademark in your hashtag?

Hashtags are often used on social networking sites. On the Japanese flea market app “Mercari”, a person was selling his/her own products on his/her own sales site with a hashtag that uses another company’s brand name (trademark) as its keyword. The use of such a hashtag is an infringement of trademark rights, a court ruled last month.

Osaka District Court, Case No: Reiwa 2 (WA) 8061, Date of Ruling: Sep. 27, 2021

Why did this person do that?

“Freeride” on the customer attraction power of another company’s brand

If you add a hashtag with a certain brand name as its keyword, when other users search for that brand name, your site and goods will appear in the search results. By doing so, you can attract users who are interested in the brand to your site and products.

This is an attempt to use the customer attraction power of another company’s brand to promote sales of one’s own products. It is “free riding”. The reputation of your company and products is something that you must build up steadily.

Same decision for meta tags

Putting important keywords in meta tags is a widely used SEO strategy for websites. Meta tags are generally not displayed on the browser screen. However, they are displayed in search engine results as a summary of website. As a result, it can be seen by Internet users and induce them to visit the website. For this reason, the use of another company’s trademark as a meta tag has been determined to be trademark infringement.

Tokyo District Court, Case No: Heisei 28 (WA) 23327, Date of Ruling: May 23, 2019

Use in hashtags and meta tags is not a traditional use of trademarks. Sooner or later, there may be trademark issues in virtual spaces such as the Metaverse. However, if you think based on the function of trademark, you can see how it should be solved.