Facebook doesn’t want you using the word face, and has filed an application to trademark the word with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application was originally filed by a site called Faceparty, but was purchased by Facebook in late 2008.
Face isn’t the only word the company is going after, it currently has an application on the books for the word “book,” and actually has the copyright for “Facebook.” Last week Facebook forced travel site Placebook to pick a name without “book” in the title (they went with TripTrace) , and has filed a suit against social networking site Teachbook for the same offense.
Is Facebook going to go after any company who uses face or book in its name?
While Facebook may go after many companies that use face or book, it is not necessarily going to go after everyone who happens to use the two words.
“The problem is not merely that they use the word “book.” You’ll notice that we have no complaint against Kelly Blue Book or Yellowbook or others. However, there is already a well-known online service with ‘book’ in the brand name that helps people connect and share. Of course the Teachbook folks are free to create a similar service for teachers or whomever they like, and we wish them well in that endeavor. What they are not free to do is trade on our name, create confusion, or dilute our brand while doing so. Additionally, it’s important to note that where there is confusion or brand dilution as there is with Teachbook and Facebook, we must enforce our rights to protect the integrity of our trademark.” said Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt in an interview with WebProNews.
Will Facebook win?
Aaron Greenspan, whom you may remember as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard classmate who claimed to have helped start the site, has applied for an extension of time to file an objection on the application. While not the same as simply filing an objection, the extension application does indicate that Greenspan intends on fighting Facebook on the issue. His current extension is good until September 22. Greenspan’s company ThinkComputer currently runs the mobile payment application FaceCash that could potentially be affected should Facebook successfully trademark the word. “If you search the patent database, there are thousands of marks that contain the word ‘face.’ I understand where Facebook is coming from, but this move has big implications for my company and for others.” Greenspan said in an interview with CNNMoney. A Facebook win could also potentially impact Apple’s FaceTime application, amongst countless others.
Facebook has also filed fourteen applications to trademark the word “Like.” A win on that front could prevent sites from allowing you to “like” anything on them.
Going too far?
Facebook is a web superpower and has no problem bullying the other kids on the web playground. The company refused to even meet with Placebook founders until they agreed to “change the domain for the website and not bring that point up again,” according to the Placebook company blog.
While the company does have the right and need to protect its name and concept, the fact that they’re not even willing to discuss a situation with a website isn’t a good sign. With over 500 million users, Facebook has the lawyer buying power to beat any startup who might come along – and probably even some of the big guys out there.
Do you think Facebook is wrong for going after Placebook and Teachbook, or is it merely protecting itself?