German Merck sues U.S. Merck over stolen Facebook page

German Merck claims its Facebook page was misappropriated by U.S. competitors

Technology trends and news by Nathan Pensky
November 25, 2011
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Here's a Facebook feud that is equal parts online bullying, international intrigue, and corporate saber-rattling.

German drug company Merck KGaA, also known as German Merck, is fighting mad over the appropriation of their Facebook page by an American competitor with the same name, Merck & Co. German Merck has filed a lawsuit against Merck U.S. in the Supreme Court of New York.

German Merck is planning on suing its American competitors, based on a claim that the latter staged a "takeover" of its Facebook URL. Representatives from German Merck have claimed that Merck U.S. had "misappropriated" its Facebook page, calling the URL "an important marketing device...of great value." The German Merck, based in Darmstadt, Germany, claims to be the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world.

The Merck Facebook page in question reflects only information concerning the Merck company based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. It even says that the page is intended only for customers in the U.S. and its territories.

The German Merck's filing stated that it had opened the Facebook page in March of 2010, granting administrative rights to its own employees. But in October 2011, the site had somehow been taken over by Merck & Co. of the U.S.

Interestingly, this flame war echoes a slightly larger international brouhaha, WWII. Once an international drug concern, German Merck lost its foreign holdings in the Treaty of Versailles following WWI. Merck's international branches were stripped as part of WWI German war reparations, though Merck companies in North America were still allowed to function with the original German name.

Of course, the gutting of the German economy and heavy German war reparations, resolved by the Paris Peace Conference in the 1919 Treaty of Versallies, have been widely acknowledged by historians as an important factor in creating a political climate amenable to the popularity of German facism, and a key contributor to the onset of WWII. From the sound of it, old conflicts heal slowly... 

Merck & Co. (U.S.) has over 93,000 global employees, with global revenues topping $46 billion in 2010. The Merck Group (Germany) brought in EUR 9.3 billion in 2010, about $12.4 billion.

German Merck is awaiting "pre-action disclosure" from Facebook, in order to frame their case and identify the proper defendants.