Facebook wants a trademark on the word “book”, because … why not?
Ars Technica (“Facebook asserts trademark on word “book” in new user agreement“) has a handy primer on the legal nitty gritty:
“Facebook, as far as we can tell, doesn’t have a registered trademark on “book.” But trademark rights can be asserted based on use of a term, even if the trademark isn’t registered, and adding the claim to Facebook’s user agreement could boost the company’s standing in future lawsuits filed against sites that use the word.
“Unregistered marks are quite common in the US,” University of Minnesota Law Professor William McGeveran told Ars. “Rights arise from use, not registration (though registration does give you some other advantages). That’s how Facebook can try to claim ‘book.'” If you see a â„¢ next to a name, that indicates an unregistered, claimed trademark, whereas an R in a circle signifies a registered one, McGeveran notes.”
What does it really mean? Hopefully nothing. But it sure sounds like dangerous precedent to me. After all, here’s this, per CNN: “Facebook closer to winning ‘face’ trademark” —
“Facebook has also waged wars against sites using the word “book.” In August, Facebook sued start-up site Teachbook.com — which claims it is merely a teacher’s community. The social networking giant also forced the travel site PlaceBook to change its name to TripTrace this past summer.”
I had planned for the second part of today’s headline to be a joke. Except it turns out it’s already true (Engadget: “So why did Facebook just trademark ‘Face’?“)
Melville House (“Facebook asserts trademark in the word â€˜bookâ€™“) chimes in on some of the possible worrisome implications.
“Thatâ€™s not to say that worse isnâ€™t to come, though, particularly as, no matter how ridiculous the claim, many of their opponents are likely to settle out of court rather than taking on a company the size of Facebook. Itâ€™s terrifying to think of businesses claiming ownership of words in this way, and more so when you consider the sneaky way in which Facebook is going about this. It hasnâ€™t yet registered â€˜Bookâ€™ in the trademark database, though it has registered â€˜Faceâ€™, â€˜Wallâ€™ and â€˜Likeâ€™, as well as more specific terms like â€˜FBâ€™ and â€˜Facebook Pagesâ€™. But by asserting ownership of â€˜Bookâ€™ in their own user agreement, they make acknowledgment of that ownership binding for all users of Facebook.”
I don’t really know what else to say about this, so here’s an internet meme.