A baker has warned other small business owners to check social media sites after a rival business assumed her trademarked domain name. 

Palo Barker noticed the name ‘Barker Bakes’, which has been registered to her for 10 years, posting bakery photos on her Instagram feed and contacted the social network company. Instagram gave Barker access and she changed her password, making it her account.

A few days later she was asked to verify her account and provide proof that she owned the company name ‘Barker Bakes’.

Barker has owned the domain name for the company, in all its forms, since 2005. The cost ranges from £5 upwards with ‘.co’ the cheapest, and each must be renewed annually. It costs around £200 to trademark a name, which must be renewed every 10 years.

If a rival business assumes another’s trademarked identity, it means customers could become confused and also means the business could be paying unnecessary costs to own a name that is being used elsewhere.

Barker said: “It has been a nightmare. I posted a few pictures to try and get my account in order and, last Friday, the woman who had been using my business’ name left several offensive comments saying I had hacked her account.”

The other business owner had been using Barker’s domain name in her Instagram name for two years and Barker said that, over the years, she had experienced confused customers, but thought they had simply got it wrong.

“In Instagram’s rules you need permission to use a registered domain name. She was using the reputation we had built up and she threatened to blacken my name. After that she kept trying to log in so I reported her to Instagram. It was all very distressing and unpleasant.

“I think it is important for business to be on social networking sites – we were late adopters of it and that puts us at a disadvantage.

“Businesses should use social networking sites if only to find out if someone else is using their name. We should have checked more.”