September 24, 2015

Social Media Mayhem – Hangry Critics and Fake Corporate Response

by Guest Blogger


When Frito-Lay launched a new limited edition bag of rainbow-colored corn chips, it sparked criticism on social media because the chips benefit a non-profit focused on preventing suicide among LGBT youth called the It Gets Better Project.


In response, a man named Mike Melgaard set up a fake customer service Facebook account under the user name "Doritos ForHelp" and began posting snarky responses to defend Doritos Rainbows from those upset about the project. In one response, Melgaard suggests that the commenter is "hangry" and may benefit from eating some Doritos:


Mike Melgaard pulled a similar stunt last month when Target announced it would no longer use store signage labeling toys as either boy toys or girl toys. When objectors aired their grievances on social media, Melgaard's fake "Target Customer Service" account responded (click here for the comments). One such response was:


Not surprisingly, Melgaard's accounts were taken down. "How can they get the accounts taken down so quickly?" you ask. If you guessed "trademarks," then you are correct!

Target and Frito-Lay's trademark rights permit them to file a take-down request with Facebook. I assume such take down requests were filed because Melgaard used "Target" and "Doritos" respectively in his fake user names, as well as the logos associated with the real companies â all of which are federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Facebook and other social media companies have similar procedures you can go through if you think your company name is being used without your permission on a fake social media account. Similar procedures exist to challenge social media accounts if you believe someone is impersonating your personal identity. Impersonation violates the Facebook Terms and Conditions applicable to all users. To "Report Something", you can generally find the submission page through a website's help or legal pages and fill out an online submission form.

Where trademarks are concerned, as in the case of company names and logos, having a federal trademark registration gives you a leg up and allows you to point to a Registration Number as evidence of your rights to a mark. This allows for a faster take-down.

A diligent trademark owner is obligated to enforce their trademark rights and shut down fakes. Failure to enforce your trademarks by allowing unauthorized uses can jeopardize trademark rights and risk abandonment. Despite the amusement factor, fakes are not likely to last. Apparently, neither are Doritos Rainbows â the limited edition chips are gone. All of the bags were claimed in one day.