Facebook Sues Teachbook Over Trademark Concerns; Where's Legalbook?
from the generic-plus-book dept
OG was the first of a whole bunch of you to send in the story of social networking giant Facebook suing the tiny Teachbook site, which apparently only has two employees and hasn’t even launched yet. The concern, of course, is with the whole “book” ending. Even though Facebook took its name from the very commonly used “facebook” name given to the collections of photos handed out to incoming students at many colleges, it now feels that its name has become more closely connected with social networking. And it’s afraid that anyone else using “book” as a suffix for a social networking site could lead to its own name being considered generic.
“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.”
This isn’t quite to the level (as some people are claiming) of Facebook claiming to own the word “book,” but it does seem like a stretch. It’s one of the many problems seen with the gradual broadening of trademark law to include such concepts as “dilution,” rather than sticking to the basic “likelihood of confusion,” standard. Whining about companies copying the suffix of your name seems pretty excessive. The tech world is littered with examples of certain prefixes and suffixes suddenly becoming popular among a number of companies after one becomes successful — and it’s never been a real problem for the original brand. Think of how many companies ended in “-ster” after “Napster,” and how many companies copied Flickr in ending with an “r” and a dropped vowel.