Pinterest’s Accounts and Terms of Service for Businesses and their Potential Impact on Sweepstakes, Contests, and Other Promotions

On November 14, 2012, Pinterest, Inc. revamped the Terms of Service (“Terms”) for (“Pinterest”) and created new business only accounts (“Business Accounts”) to be governed by the site’s new Business Terms of Service (“Business Terms”). Although commercial use of the service was always encouraged by Pinterest, its Acceptable Use Policy  and prior versions of its Terms of Service seemingly prohibited commercial use of the service. The creation of Business Accounts makes clear that commercial activity is not only encouraged, but explicitly allowed on Pinterest.

The new features available for Business Accounts include:

  •          An ability to convert your account from an individual account to a Business Account;
  •          Various new buttons and widgets available only to Business Account holders; and
  •          An ability to verify that you are the owner of the website featured on your Business Account page on Pinterest.

The new Business Terms do not vary significantly from the standard Terms that govern individuals’ use of the site.  Further, the Business Terms do not provide additional copyright, trademark or other protections for Business Account holders (apart from the verification feature discussed above). As such, Business Account holders still have the same recourse as the general Pinterest population for suspected violations of their intellectual property rights (i.e. the Report Pin and Report Comment functionalities and copyright and trademark infringement reporting forms). 

The primary impetus for the creation of Business Accounts appears to be a means of providing guidance on how to best use Pinterest to advertise your brand (see Pinterest’s  "Best Practices"  document which explains how to maximize Pinterest features to your brand’s advantage). There is, however, limited guidance on what you can and cannot do on the service or when referencing Pinterest in marketing materials (also, Pins from Business Accounts are still subject to Pinterest’s Acceptable Use Policy and Pin Etiquette Policy). Pinterest provides this guidance in its new Logos, Trademarks and Marketing Guidelines.  Notably, these guidelines prohibit:

  •         Activity that encourages spam, “such as asking participants to comment repeatedly.”
  •        “Run[ning] a sweepstakes where each pin, repin, or like represents an entry [or] [a]sk[ing] pinners to vote with a repin or like.”
  •         Running contests, sweepstakes or promotions “too often.”
  •        “Suggest[ing] that Pinterest sponsors or endorses” your business.

It remains to be seen how (and if) Pinterest will enforce these rules, some of which are extremely vague and unclear. But, what is clear is that Pinterest will be reassessing and updating its policies with frequency. Indeed, a week earlier, Pinterest announced a “test run” for “secret boards.”  As part of the test run, account holders may keep up to three of the boards on their account private, whereas all boards used to be publicly available—this could also be a welcome change for Business Account holders.

For better or worse, it is apparent from these developments that, like other social networking sites, Pinterest’s policies will require constant monitoring to ensure that marketing on the site does not run afoul of its policies.