Thursday, August 26, 2010

Facebook Sues Educators Over the Word "Book"

"What's in a name? A rose by any other word would smell as sweet?"

At least that's what Shakespeare's Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet, that is) thought. The creators of Facebook think otherwise.

It seems the ever-growing Fbook Inc. is claiming that the "Book" in Facebook" is theirs and theirs alone. According to Wired, a lawsuit has been enacted by the social networking site against the site Teachbook, a similar site for educators and school administrators:

Facebook has sued a little-known website for educators called Teachbook, claiming Facebook literally owns the “book” when it comes to naming social networking sites.

“Misappropriating the distinctive book portion of Facebook’s trademark, defendant has created its own competing online networking community in a blatant attempt to become a Facebook for teachers,” (.pdf) according to a filing in San Francisco federal court.

Facebook, with some 500 million users, is policing its trademark in a bid to prevent others from capitalizing on its famous name or diluting its value.

Facebook is not alone in pursuing trademark actions to protect household-name recognition.

Facebook’s lawsuit follows recent threatened litigation by Best Buy against a Wisconsin priest who outfitted a Volkswagen beetle to look like Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” vehicle. The priest had painted “God Squad” on the beetle, but has since agreed to remove it.

Facebook’s lawsuit Wednesday seeks unspecified damages and demands a judge order Teachbook, of Northbrook, Illinois, to immediately cease using “book” in its name.

This begs the obvious question: Would Facebook sue a social-networking site for priests named Goodbook? Or a librarian-networking site named Librarybook?

Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, pointed out that “we have no complaint against Kelly Blue Book or Green Apple Books or others.”

“However, there is already a well known online network of people with ‘book’ in the brand name. Of course the Teachbook folks are free to create an online network for teachers or whomever, and we wish them well in that endeavor,” he said in an e-mail. “What they are not free to do is trade on our name or dilute our brand while doing so.”

Teachbook declined immediate comment.

It bills itself as a “professional community for teachers” where they are encouraged to share lesson plans and instructional videos, and to manage “communications with parents and students.”

No hearing date has been set.

See the full article HERE

Now, I don't know about you, but this seems a tad extreme to me. We all know what Facebook is. Raise your hand if you'd heard of Teachbook and actually confused it with Facebook? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

I didn't think so. The word "Book" is not up for grabs. Yes, Facebook was the first site--that I know of, at least--to coin that type of naming convention, but these things happen all the time. People are always trying to capitalize on others' successes. It's the way the cookie crumbles. Besides, it's not reducing Facebook's popularity or usage levels. It's an entirely different audience for an entirely different purpose. So, who really cares?

I am curious to see, however, just what happens with this debacle. Facebook as a corporation has a lot of power, whether we want to admit it or not. Could they actually force all other networking sites from using the word "book" if there's no space between it and the previous word in their name? Should they?

What do YOU think?

1 comment:

  1. In addition to the "likelihood of confusion" aspect, Fb is going to have to prove loss of revenue and loss of traffic to Teachbook (a site that looks nothing like the social-networking juggernaut).

    Facebook should learn from it's online community predecessors. Do not turn the 500-pound gorilla of corporate litigation on grass-roots community sites. It will backfire. They *might* win in court, but they'll lose the membership that supports their revenue. Aka: They'll face the same abandonment that AOL, MSN, and MySpace did.

    They're already treading dangerous waters with the Privacy Settings monkey-business and functionality regressions.