Can Facebook Trademark the Word 'Face'?

They've already had some success with "book"

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Facebook lawyers are attempting to secure a degree of trademark authority over the word "face" as part of a company name. It may sound outlandish, but the social networking site has already had some success with the word "book." Facebook has successfully blocked other companies from building sites with similar-sounding names that end in "book," such as "Placebook." Now it wants similar ownership over "face" and is currently pursuing a trademark claim. But, as is so often the case with Facebook, the situation manages to get even stranger and more dramatic from here.

  • Zuckerberg's College Rivalry Returns  TechCrunch's Erick Schoenfeld reports, "However, at least one person is objecting to this trademark: Aaron Greenspan. Yup, that Aaron Greenspan, [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg’s classmate at Harvard who laid a claim to helping create Facebook, which he later settled. Greenspan now has his own company, Think Computer, which is behind the mobile payments app called FaceCash. If Facebook gets the trademark for the word 'Face,' that could spell trouble for FaceCash. 'The possible registration has implications for my company (not to mention hundreds of others, including Apple, Inc.), so I’ve decided to ask the USPTO for an extension of time to oppose it,' he explains in an email."
  • Trademark System Makes This Too Easy  Law blogger Alan Patrick sighs, "Maybe this is the way for Olde Media to make money again - use their cash to trademark all the popular words and then charge everybody for using them. If I recall correctly, to trademark something in the US is about $5k, so if I trademarked 'and' and then charged every US media source $.001 a pop for using it, I reckon I'd be a gazillionaire by dinnertime. Sadly, in the US they will probably get away with it, the whole US IP/Trademarking scene is (too often) essentially a 'who pays, wins' game, irrespective of prior usage, legal rights or whatever."
  • How Facebook Bullied Teachers With Trademark Claim  Vator News's Katie Gatto writes, "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."
  • David vs. Goliath  CNN's Julianne Pepitone writes, "Facebook's separate fight over 'book,' on the other hand, has been more of a David vs. Goliath saga." Although in this case Facebook is Goliath, and Goliath wins. "As CNNMoney reported Thursday, Facebook is suing start-up site -- 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 earlier this month."
  • From Privacy to Nouns, Facebook Getting Greedy  Time's Megan Friedman quips, "First, they came for our privacy. Now, they want to take two very common nouns, too. ... Next on Facebook's list of nouns to acquire? 'Like.' Watch out, one-syllable words. You could be in danger, too."
  • Just as Orwell Predicted  Marketing blogger Frank Reed gets a little carried away. "Be sure to enjoy what may be limited time using the words ‘face’ and ‘book’ without Facebook’s permission. Maybe one day the Facebook chip implanted in account holders will give a little electrical shock when they step out of line and say something that could be reminiscent of a normal conversation that was once part of the public domain."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.