Jim Barter, Meridian’s vice president of sales and marketing, wasn’t aware of the account when first contacted by MedCity News. After looking into the matter, Barter said he couldn’t connect the account to anyone with the company. “It is a concern” that someone from outside the company appears to be appropriating Meridian’s name, he said. “We’re curious to know who operates it,” he said.
Fortunately for Meridian, the mysterious owner of Twitter account @illumigene hasn’t made any inflammatory statements that would reflect negatively on the company. (Illumigene is the name of Meridian’s molecular test for the harmful bacterium C. difficile.)
Unfortunately for Meridian, it was just as vulnerable as any company to a name squatter, but it was one of the unlucky few that fell prey.
The casual observer who stumbles on the @illumigene account may not even suspect anything untoward, but the somewhat sophomoric and amateurish tone of the account’s Tweets makes it appear suspect. “VIVO Meridian Bioscience … gonna stomp the competition!” and “Wow! Im getting tons of press! Im gonna be a gold mine!” are characteristic of the account’s somewhat-less-than-professional sounding tweets. If anything, the account seems to have been set up by an overzealous if grammatically challenged fan of the company — to the extent that a Cincinnati life sciences company has fans. (Probably more than the Bengals, at least.)
Plus, with just 10 tweets in the last six months, and only 10 followers, the @illumigene account hardly has the reach to create substantial problems for Meridian. Attempts to reach the @illumigene account holder were unsuccessful.
Still, name-squatting is something that any brand-conscious company (and that’s pretty much every company that exists) would rather avoid.
“Twitter name squatters are a problem for companies because they represent unknown individuals and entities that suddenly have the ability to harm or destroy your reputation or brand identity among a massive consumer base,” said Tyson Snow, an attorney who specializes in social media with Mumford West & Snow LLC in Salt Lake City.
“The goodwill a company spent years or decades to develop may quickly be lost if name squatters are not shut down,” he added.
So what’s a name-squatting victim to do?
Snow, who blogs at Social Media, Esq.,was kind enough to walk MedCity News through the process. And he brings good news.
First, visit Twitter’s name-squatting policy page, which sends aggrieved parties in one of two directions — impersonation (a user account that’s pretending to be someone else with the intent to deceive) or trademark infringement (an account that uses a business’ name, logo or other trademark-protected materials.) Trademark infringement is the more serious offense so Twitter responds more quickly to those requests, Snow said.
Twitter requires several pieces of information when submitting a trademark infringement “ticket,” including trademark registration number and the name of the office the trademark was filed with. Finally, the trademark owner must decide what action she wants Twitter to take: remove the account entirely or shut it down and take it over herself. In cases in which the account name is misleading, Snow suggests the second option.
From there, it’s in Twitter’s hands.
Twitter didn’t respond to a request for statistics on name-squatting reports it receives.