All I want for Christmas is my IP


How to get the Twitter handle you really want for Christmas.

The John Lewis Christmas advertising campaigns have gained popularity each year since they started in 2007 and have become a phenomenon within British popular culture and on social media, with fans and critics alike eagerly awaiting this year’s instalment.


This post was provided by Joanna Potbury an Associate at city law firm DMH Stallard. For many years I’ve worked with another IP solicitor Kelly Hudson at McDaniels Law who in July 2015 dual qualified as a European Registered Trade Mark Attorney, further expanding her IP expertise. And I’ve learnt that in all things about trademarks and brands, a solicitor in essential.


As there has been a noticeable shift in TV audiences moving to online platforms, many viewers will first see the latest John Lewis ad on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

However, visiting John Lewis on Twitter is not the straightforward browsing journey it should be.  Why?

If you visited @JohnLewis you’d find yourself in the world of an American computer science educator and father of four.   If you really want to see the John Lewis Christmas ad instead of images of Mr Lewis’ lovely kids, visit @JohnLewisRetail.

Not ideal for anyone (not least Mr Lewis who on his Twitter profile makes it clear that he is ‘not a retail store’). And the real retail store sends him a hamper every year as he forwards relevant content to John Lewis.

“The fact that such a well-known company does not control the Twitter handle most likely to be associated with its brand, represents a problem often faced by businesses in today’s online world. If you or your business cannot use the handle that you think relates to your business, you may miss out on potential customers and risk causing confusion over who owns your brand. Whilst Twitter forbids the sale of accounts, there are other ways that a company can obtain a profile which relates to their business.”

Joanna Potbury Associate at law firm DMH Stallard.


Top tips for what to do when your ideal Twitter username is owned by someone else:

  1. Kindly ask the user of your desired handle if they would be willing to give it up – this reportedly worked for the owners of @workable
  2. If you are a company, try adding Ltd or Plc to the end of your handle – for example BP use @BP_plc
  3. If this fails, try a similar handle with a slight difference – for example, vox.comuses @VoxDotCom
  4. Keep an eye on the current handle user – if they ever delete their account, the handle will become available for you to use.
  5. Register a trade mark. If you have a trade mark, and can demonstrate that the handle user is using your company name in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation, you can ask Twitter to enforce its trade mark policy and require the user to give up the handle.

Joanna commented:

“This last solution only works in the case of trade mark infringement. Therefore, unless @JohnLewis starts using the handle in a way that is likely to make consumers believe he is John Lewis the retail chain, @JohnLewisRetail will have to be content with their handle and continue to engage their customers from this profile.”