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Facebook sues Teachbook for the use of 'book'

Social network contends that the use of 'book' for networking sites could dilute its brand

Technology trends and news by Katie Gatto
August 26, 2010 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/1165

Let it be now known that the name "Book" in combination with another "generic" word is forever outlawed, if used as a commercial venture around social networking.

Well, that is at least the hope of Facebook which believes the use of the word "Book" would disgrace its good name.

Facebook last Wednesday filed a trademark infringement suit against Teachbook in a California district court, claiming the use of the word book in the upstart's name is an infringement of the social network's brand.

"The BOOK component of the Facebook mark has no descriptive meaning and is arbitary and highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking Web sites," the filing says. "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."

Facebook even claims that Teachbook is secretly trying to become the Facebook for teachers.

The Teachbook.com Web site, which is set to be launched after Labor Day, is designed to provide teachers with the tools to manage their classrooms, communicate with parents and share lesson plans. It says clearly on its homepage that it is an "online community for teachers." Facebook contends that the site is a "networking" service for teachers and even touts on its site that it is a "substitue for Facebook," by saying on its Web site that "many schools forbid their teachers to maintain Facebook and MySpace accounts because of the danger that students might learn personal information about their teachers. With Teachbook, you can manage your profile so that only teachers..."

“It’s a David and Goliath situation,” said Greg Shrader, the managing partner of Teachbook, in an interview with Wired ”They’re throwing bombs at a mosquito. They believe we’re going to roll over and in some respect they get to own the term ‘book.’”

Facebook is hoping to get the site to not only change its name, but to pay an unspecified amount in damages, for the use of this section  of their name. Northbrook, Illinois-based Teachbook is expected to file a response to the suit within the next week. Both Facebook and Teachbook were not available for immediate comment.

Before Facebook was the name of a social media website, it was a generic term for the student directories which included both photos and brief biographies of university students, distributed by the schools. They came in both digital and printed format. This may explain why Facebooks original URL was thefacebook.com.

But now that Facebook is a dominant player, it can wield its authority, at the expense of poor little upstarts. 

This is not the first name-related suit that Facebook has launched. A similar suit was filed against Placebook, which has since renamed itself Trip Trace. 


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