When the first social media hashtag was used in 2007, users had no idea how ubiquitous hashtags would become. Today, hashtags are an essential part of our lives (and a subject we’ve been writing about for years). From marketing a business to garnering support for a cause, hashtags have become an essential part of our society. This may even be an understatement. For instance, from May 26, 2020, until June 7, 2020, alone, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was used over 47 million times on Twitter. 47 million. Talk about impact.
We have previously examined the evolving role of the hashtag in intellectual property law, particularly trademark law. While the nuances of the symbol’s existence and use protections continue to be ironed out by the courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the hashtag has quickly become a ubiquitous tool on social media. It is no surprise the legal field is utilizing the empowered hashtag to connect members of the industry, particularly on Twitter. Using #legal or #LawTwitter hashtags on social media has created informal “groups” of lawyers, judges and other legal practitioners who provide support, feedback and criticisms of its members (and others) on a variety of topics.
Oh, the once humble hashtag (or pound sign, number sign, octothorpe, etc.). For so long a symbol both ubiquitous and free from controversy, its new life as a go-to signifier of discussions and trending topics on Twitter has made it relevant in ways no one could have predicted a decade ago. For proof, one only need look to the courts, where a recent spat between two competitors highlights the interplay between social media symbology, such as the hashtag, and intellectual property laws (especially trademark law).