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Forum nameMain Community Discussion Board
Topic subjectFacebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=17&topic_id=90561
90561, Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by David Bridger, Sun Mar-25-12 05:27 AM
Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word "book" by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.


Truly bonkers. I have to say I'm just about at the end of my rope with Facebook.
90562, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Erin_M_H, Sun Mar-25-12 08:59 AM
Trademarks only apply within limited frameworks. We didn't stop eating apples because Apple Records existed or because Apple Computers became so popular. We still eat apple pie, apple crumble, and apple pandowdy. The trademark ONLY applies to a brand in the specific sphere in which they are using it.

Similarly, we all still have walls in our home, contractors talk about specifications for walls they are building, and cartoonists do images of characters leaning on brick walls and talking to each other, although Facebook for quite a while has asserted a trademark for Wall in a social networking Website context.

Their assertion of trademark for Book is in precisely the same context. They fight against other social networking sites that include "Book" in their name, such as PlaceBook. That is the only claim they are making on the word, and the user agreement simply means that users will not use words like Poke, Wall, Book, and so on in a way that would infringe on Facebook's use of them as a social networking Website -- users will not create sites like Authorbook, Bookbook, Wallbook, or so forth, ANC will not call the individual pages on any site they might set up Walls.

This has really been blown out of proportion. They have a brand in a specified market, and they're trying to make sure it's not diluted.

-- Erin
90563, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by David Bridger, Sun Mar-25-12 10:35 AM
No. The word already existed. They adopted it and now try to own it, in the same way MacJunk tries to own Mac.
90564, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Erin_M_H, Sun Mar-25-12 01:27 PM
No. Trademarks only exist in limited context. The word already existed, yes, but they were the first ones to use it as part of a brand in a particular niche. Silhouette already existed as a word -- a word taken from somebody's name, for that matter -- before Harlequin created a romance line. Think they'll let anyone use Silhouette in the description of their romances? Of course not.

This isn't something they've invented. It's the way trademarks work.
90565, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by David Bridger, Sun Mar-25-12 04:06 PM
No. :D

Not according to a trademark attorney from Washington DC I know, who's shaking her head at Facebook's nonsense. Her actual words were, "Good luck with that, Mark Zuckerberg."
90566, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Wandering Author, Sun Mar-25-12 04:09 PM
Actually, I think you are both partially right. Yes, you've described the way trademarks should work. (I am not a lawyer, but have some understanding of how trademarks work, and your description is at least accurate as far as my understanding goes.) Although, even then, you're missing one point: even in social networking, Facebook should be the trademark, not "_"Book - although trademark law would, legitimately, disallow constructions that were too similar and thus confusing. To permit part of a trademark to become protected (to prohibit all social media sites that include the term "book" for example) is to give overly broad protection, in my opinion.

But, there is also a problem with the tech industry and intellectual property in general. We can see it in attempts to enforce overly broad trademark restrictions, overly broad applications of patents (which in many cases should have been disallowed as "prior art", if they were to be applied so broadly) for things such as user interfaces, and in periodic attempts to assert overly broad claims even over users' intellectual property, once posted on their site. Basically, because the tech industry changes so rapidly, and no one can be sure what use something may have in five years, they've developed this mindset of "stake out all the territory you can, just in case there's gold hiding under there". That's an oversimplification, but it is a real problem, one that is often discussed in the tech press. And Facebook, like just about every other startup that has made it big, has developed a severe case of the 'grab everything you can' fever.

Say I started a site called AuthorBook - do you really think you'd happen upon that site and think "Oh, this must be FaceBook"? I'd assume it was someone else who'd started a niche site for authors, and I think most people would do the same. Trademark protection was meant to prevent truly confusing situations, not to rule out huge swathes of the language from later use just because someone else used that term as part of their trademark. Your example of Silhouette is different, in that the entire name consists of the word, and that word is an at least somewhat uncommon one. (Not that I wouldn't howl if they tried to lay claim to its use in the language in general, but it is more reasonable to use such a word as a trademark. To open a bookshop called "Books" and then expect to trademark that name would be absurd. Or to call it "Wandering Author's Books", then expect to prevent other bookshops from using the term 'books' would be equally absurd.)

Yet that is just what FaceBook has done. They created a composite name - precisely because you couldn't trademark 'book' - based on common usage such as "phone book" or "address book", and now they expect that to give them some leverage over the use of the word "book" in a name. That seems overreaching to me. Yes, if someone comes up with a name that looks or sounds a lot like it overall, or if their logo looks every similar and ends in "book", and they're trying to set up a social media site, then I agree they'd have right on their side. But to clamp down on all names that make use of a commonly used term? I think that's overkill. And anyone with a good lawyer could probably shatter it, enshrined user agreement or not, based on the common phrases I mentioned above. It is not a new usage, it is not unique in any way. I knew what a "phone book" and an "address book" and many other such things were long before I ever set eyes on a computer. (Yes, I'm that old... :P) So while FaceBook as a whole may be a legitimate trademark, the use of "book" as part of the composite would no more be 'theirs' than "books" as part of the name of a bookstore would be - or at least, that's how it should work. With the cash at their disposal to hurl lawyers at hapless startups, they may just manage to grab more than they have a real right to.
90568, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by zette, Sun Mar-25-12 08:55 PM
You know, if this were closer to April 1, I'd think this was a joke.

Trademarks have to be filed, and unless they have gotten the government to agree that the word 'book' belongs to them, they're kind of out of luck as far as I can tell.

Just saying you have the rights does not automatically mean you get them.

All in all, glad I've stayed clear of the place.
90594, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Wandering Author, Tue Mar-27-12 04:47 PM
I agree with everything you've said here, but even if they're just saying they have the rights, there is a reason this is a very bad thing.

If they want to say they have the rights... they've got the cash to hire a few zillion lawyers to back them up. Which means most people just won't have the resources to fight back, even if they're clearly wrong. (It is far too easy for a team of lawyers to pull all sorts of tricks whose only purpose is to cost their opponents so much time and money that they just give up. I know a woman who knows just a little bit about the system, and she did something like that when her landlord tried to evict her. She found a lawyer who sent so many interrogatories, and caused so many delays that the landlord folded. Of course, in that case, it helped that the landlord knew less about the law than I did when I was three... she didn't even understand the concept of "don't tick off the judge". But the principle remains, and is much too easy for people with enough cash to exploit.)
90570, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by KatsInCommand, Sun Mar-25-12 10:06 PM
I work in Intellectual Property, I even did Trademarks for a while. It's normal for a company to apply for trademark rights for terms that can provide for Brand recognition.

While I agree that "book" is going too far (who even refers to facebook as book?).

I'm not involved enough to know what they have to have proven to to have the trademark approved and registered by the patent office. It isn't just one patent office either. It starts in the USA and then they have to file in every country they feel neccessary to have that protection.

Having a trademark and wanting a trademark are two different things -- and neithe situation prohibits the company from putting any comments into their user agreement.

Anyway, I'm not concerned. I really don't see how they're going to get this through the trademark and patent offices.

**edited to add: I'm not an attorney; these are my observations based on working with attorneys**
90591, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by zette, Tue Mar-27-12 02:49 PM
My problem with it is the link with electronic and web material. They cannot stop people from using the word 'book' in everyday items, but what if I wanted to create a webpage called 'Zette's Book of Life' or something of the sort? Where -- if they got the trademark -- would you draw the line?

I just find it annoying enough that I'm glad I don't have a Facebook account.
90606, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Weird Jim, Thu Mar-29-12 12:36 AM
The problem is that some people are very creative with their ability to latch onto trademarks. If you created a name with book in it that could even be foolishly mistaken by somebody for Facebook, and Facebook left that unchallenged, this would then create a sort of legal precedent if somebody was deliberately trying to latch onto Facebook's name. They could claim, perhaps, that Facebook has ignored trespass in the past and is singling them out because of their success.

There was a case of Starbuck's challenge to a native North American outfit starting up a coffee shop on Haida Gwai (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) of the West Coast of Canada. A quite isolated spot. They called it Haidabuck's. No stretch of imagination would have had people thinking they were going into a Starbuck's, but SB's could not allow this without challenge. (Sorry! I never heard the outcome of the case.)

We had one time a case, here in Vancouver, where a hambuger drive in had a big ambiguous looking sign calling itself Mr.Donald's and that's the sort of thing they problably want to stop.

At least, that's the way I see it. Stop worrying people. See you all in court.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960
90624, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by CatrinP, Thu Mar-29-12 07:18 AM
We had a case hee in Australia of MacDonalds trying to stop a tiny burger bar from using the name McDonald's Bugers.

Trouble is that Macca's had only just movd into the suburb and the Burger bar had been there for 20 plus years. McDonald was the name of the guy who started the burger bar and now his son ran the shop.

Needless to say sanity prevailed and Macca's had to suffer the indignity of having someone close by with a similar name running a similar store.

My point in relating this is that a big name company can be protective of thier name and product - they have every right to be; after all it is their business - but they don't alwyas get thier way.
90607, RE: Facebook asserts trademark on the word Book
Posted by Weird Jim, Thu Mar-29-12 12:43 AM
'Zette's Book of Life'

That would perhaps go unnoticed, but I doubt if a Zettebook Life social media site would escape a challenge.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960
90588, Bye bye, Facebook
Posted by David Bridger, Tue Mar-27-12 07:21 AM
I just deleted my Facebook account. This is only the latest in a long line of nonsenses from the company and there's no reason to think they'll stop. My pages will be visible for 14 days yet, but I'm gone from there.
90738, RE: Bye bye, Facebook
Posted by godpantsminus, Sat Apr-21-12 07:23 AM
I deleted my account long before any of this nonsense began. Isn't it kind of pathetic how they try to keep you from deleting your account?
(ex.: These three people you never talk to will miss you if you leave... (*insert three random people from friends list)

I will celebrate the day Facebook and Twitter go away forever. Unfortunately, that is about as likely to happen as good music becoming overwhelmingly popular again.