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Facebook humor site sues Facebook first to get legal OK on use of trademark parody
[Article updated at 12:15 PDT on Nov. 5, 2010 to include Facebook's official statement on the lawsuit.]
Lamebook, a collection of user-submitted funny pictures and status updates from Facebook and other social networking sites, filed a lawsuit Thursday against Facebook for trademark infringement.
As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s actually a clever preemptive move on Lamebook’s behalf.
Jonathan Standefer and Matthew Genitempo launched Lamebook back in April 2009, and they had no trouble for a whole year. Then in March 2010 they started receiving cease and desist notices from Facebook concerning the site’s name and logo, which are clearly modeled after the popular social networking site’s aesthetic. After several months of receiving these letters and eventually threats to be sued, Lamebook has now turned the tables by suing Facebook first.
Lamebook argues that its site is a parody of Facebook and is therefore protected by fair use under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, Lamebook insists that, since it does not offer the same kind of service as Facebook, it is not infringing on Facebook’s trademark.
“Unlike the Facebook website, the Lamebook website does not offer social-networking services or functionality to its users and, therefore, does not compete with Facebook,” reads a portion of the complaint.
Lamebook hopes that the Texas Western District Court where it filed will declare that the site has done nothing wrong in using aspects of the Facebook name and aesthetic, which would put an end to the threats of lawsuit. (Until, of course, Facebook appeals the decision.)
Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg named his website (originally “thefacebook.com”) after physical facebooks, small printed booklets containing pictures and sometimes brief bios of all the students at a university.
As expected, Facebook is confident in its position:
It’s unfortunate that after months of working with Lamebook to amicably resolve what we believe is an improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook’s popularity and fame, they have turned to litigation. We are confident in our position and believe we will prevail in court.
No word yet if Zuckerberg will go after Steve Jobs for his Apple MacBook line.
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