Social networking giant Facebook recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Teachbook.com, an upstart networking web site for teachers. Although Teachbook obtained a trademark in 2009, Facebook’s suit claims its incorporation of the word “book” constitutes unfair competition and trademark dilution. Teachbook denies the trademark infringement claims and asserts that Facebook does not own the word “book.” Teachbook also has vowed to vigorously defend itself against Facebook’s claims.
Evidently completing the thought initiated by the Teachbook case, Facebook also is seeking to trademark the word “face.” However, that application is being opposed by Aaron Greenspan, former roommate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claims Facebook was his idea and has paperwork with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in an effort to prevent Facebook from obtaining the registration.
Facebook’s quest to obtain ownership of the words “book” and “face” may have far-reaching implications for many existing businesses using those words in their company or product names. If successful, Facebook’s efforts also conceivably could initiate a tidal-wave of trademark applications seeking registrations for common words. The success of those applications likely would depend heavily on the goods or services proposed to be associated with the marks, with the likelihood of a registration increasing in proportion to the extent to which the idea embodied by the trademark differs from those goods or services (for example, think of the word “apple” used to market computers and personal electronic devices).
As with most Facebook-related legal issues, the unfolding of these recent developments should be very interesting to watch.