Friday, September 24, 2010

Facebook Trademark Infringement with Teachbook

You can bet social media megalith Facebook is actively scanning the horizon for would be intellectual property infringers. And a few weeks ago it found one. A new online community for teachers, called “Teachbook,” is using a similar networking platform to Facebook. Facebook fears that adding the “–book” suffix to words could create a whole plethora of networking Websites for different societal groups. This, in turn, would dilute the trademark brand.

Facebook sued for cybersquatting, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution in the US District Court for the Northern District of California (Case No. 5:2010cv03654). According to the complaint:

"The 'book' component of the Facebook mark has no descriptive meaning and is arbitrary and highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking Web sites," the complaint explains. "If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix 'book' could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services.' That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook marks, impairing their ability to function as unique and distinctive identifiers of Facebook's goods and services."

If the past is any indication of how this suit will go, Teachbook will may change its name. A startup online travel company called Placebook recently changed its name to TripTrace after a run-in with Facebook.


  1. seems facebook will not lose "face" at any cost - whilst a non descriptive term can acquire distinction through use - it seems their monopoly over such generic terms is a bit over the top.. agree?

  2. Two things I find troubling about Facebook's argument:
    It is likely ALREADY the case that consumers understand the suffix 'book'--in the context of a website--to suggest that the website is a social networking service.
    Facebook shouldn't be able to divide their mark into smaller pieces and then enforce those pieces as separate marks. So long as their is no implied sponsorship by Facebook, there doesn't seem to be a problem.