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Facebook sues social networking site with suffix 'book'


Facebook sues social networking site with suffix 'book'

A tiny online startup with just two employees has found itself on the receiving end of an infringement injunction filed by Facebook. Its misdemeanour? Having 'book' in the company's name.

Teachbook.com is a social networking site created for bringing teachers together. It currently has just a smattering of members and isn't even officially launched. However, as far back as March 2009 Facebook took umbridge to the site's choice of name and has now taken its protests to the next level.

Facebook's stand is that “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,’” and by extension “That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook Marks.” While this seems like a reasonably fair bit of logic, it's certainly being rather harsh about it.

Greg Shrader, managing director of the Northbrook, Illinois-based startup, had this to say, “We’re trying to understand how Facebook, a multibillion-dollar company, feels this small enterprise in Chicago is any type of threat. Effectively they're bombing a mosquito here.”

However Facebook counters that “It’s not that they are using ‘book’ ... However, there is already a well-known online network of people with ‘book’ in the brand name.”

Teachbook is currently in the process of filing a response to Facebook's lawsuit with no immediate settlement seemingly on the cards.






August 27, 2010, 4:49 pm

"...bombing a mosquito" - they're really not engaging with the issue here, which is that Facebook's position is absolutely right - although teachbook.com is clearly not a threat to Facebook, if they don't object to Teachbook (irrespective of its size) then before you know it a precedent will be set and there will be versions of xxxxxbook.com springing up, diluting Facebook's brand and prejudicing the efficacy of a future legal challenge to a future xxxxbook.com used by a real competitor.

Yes, it looks harsh, but organisations like Facebook don't throw legal dollars at stamping out inconsequential start-ups for no good reason. There is a genuine reason for this. And let's be plain about this - Teachbook is only called "Teachbook" (a term which makes no sense whatsoever) because of the influence of Facebook on the social networking sphere. If Facebook wasn't around, it would very likely be called Teachspace or Teachlink or something.


August 27, 2010, 5:14 pm

I'd better stop writing this on my macbook then, in case I get sued. Think I'll do some reading instead, on my eBook reader. Damn.

rebel yell

August 27, 2010, 5:17 pm

Facebook is the Truman Show&#8230.if they switched it off tomorrow people would whine for about 2 days then forget about it.

The value of the company is ridicules&#8230.and who, over the age of 14 uses it anyway??


August 27, 2010, 5:30 pm

Does anyone remember FaceParty? Surely the prequel to social networking sites. Maybe they should sue Facebook for the Face portion of the name?


August 27, 2010, 5:52 pm

I hope FriendFace is still safe.


August 27, 2010, 5:54 pm

Guess I'll have to scrap my BookFace idea then.


August 27, 2010, 5:56 pm

@Chris2510 - Never mind Facebook suing you I think McDonald's and eBay et al may take a bite at you! ;-)


August 27, 2010, 5:59 pm

Typical Americans suing anybody for everything and thinking they own any word that contains book.


August 27, 2010, 6:10 pm

Just had a quick look at Teachbook site, as a layman given my limited knowledge of such matters, I don't think Facebook has a case, the comments about the name portions aside: the site has hardly any resemblances to Facebook, the logo is utterly different, its function and operation is different (based on what it says on the Home page). However, from a corporate and legal point of view Facebook is obliged to do as @John McLean's post suggests. Lets move on.


August 27, 2010, 6:39 pm

While I understand the logic behind protecting one's brand name, I nevertheless feel that claiming commonly-used words as part of a brand should be regulated in some way, otherwise we run the risk of people copyrighting words out of existence. Yes, Teachbook would not be called as such had it not been for Facebook's success, but claiming that a derivative of part of the name is infringing some sort of copyright on the whole name will surely be not that easy to substantiate, otherwise common words like cookbook, guidebook, etc. would have to be abolished for posing a threat.


August 27, 2010, 6:43 pm

@SRS: Alas, looks like Reynholm had a meeting with the Facebook people and Jen Barber was translating (at least judging from the www.friendface.co.uk page)...

Stewart Clark

August 27, 2010, 6:59 pm

Note to Facebook, they say that all publicity is good publicity. Wrong and this is why I will not be joining eggonfacebook.com


August 27, 2010, 7:19 pm

@Futurealien - first, common words plainly can't be the subject of an action like this - Facebook couldn't possibly exert a claim over words like cookbook, guidebook, yearbook or even facebook (with a small 'f'). Secondly it's not simply the fact that the "Teachbook" name includes a derivative portion of the Facebook brand. If they were operating in different spaces it would be fine; it's the fact that there is a similarity of brand AND they are operating a social network of some description that poses a risk of dilution of Facebook's brand identity.

To use a facetious analogy, if you started a fruit company called 'Pear' with a logo in the shape of a stylised pear with a bite out of it, nobody would have a problem. Conversely if you started an IT company with the same name and logo, you can bet it wouldn't take long for the Cupertino legal department to pay you a little visit.

Basically this all goes to the fact that companies have to be seen to make an effort to defend their brands if they aren't to become public property. To use the most oft-cited example, in the UK at least, the brand 'Hoover' became so synonymous with vacuum cleaners that any generic vacuum cleaner is commonly referred to as a hoover and using a vacuum cleaner is referred to as 'hoovering'. The uniqueness of Hoover's brand identity was hugely diluted as a result. This can be good or bad according to strategy - Google, for example, seems actively to be encouraging the use of the verb 'to google' as it reinforces the default search engine option in people's minds, though they probably wouldn't like it if another company started a search engine called 'Zoogle' or similar.


August 27, 2010, 9:43 pm

Well I refer to it as Facefook for alls its branding. He has a really smackable face too. Just Hank's two cents on this nonsense.


August 27, 2010, 9:47 pm

Perhaps faceparty should sue facebook for the heck of it. I've never believed in patenting words and brand names. Ideas are fair game as they actually progress the human race.


August 28, 2010, 1:06 am

Sorry, this is utterly stupid. This will set a good example for patent-sharks- very very bad. @darkspark88, amen!


August 28, 2010, 1:09 am

Who remembers when Microsft tried to sue a company for using the word 'Window(s)' and lost their case. Same thing applies here...


August 28, 2010, 4:48 am

@darkspark88: what a weird thing to say, there always has to be a form of brand name trademark, otherwise a company could spend millions in marketing just for someone with a product of the same name coming in and stealing the sales.

It wouldn't be very fair if the supermarket budget cola could be called coca cola or pepsi would it?

Hans Gruber

August 28, 2010, 4:49 am

A plethora of sites already exists using derivatives of You and Tube. In fact 'tube' is almost synonymous with online video on-demand content. The 'You' portion is also pretty commonly used. Did Google kick up a fuss? I think on this basis alone, Facebook would do well to block another company using either portion of its name no matter how closely related the site's business model was, it doesn't seem constitutional to ban such sites, no matter how aggressive America's libel laws are, but still that ought not to discourage a multi-billion dollar company from trying, if only for spoiling their start up rivals' chances of ever getting ahead because they can't afford to legally challenge such actions. It's not exactly a new business practice as insert-huge-softwaretech-company-here would tell you.


August 28, 2010, 4:49 am

Just off to the library to get a paper-based reading item. (Can't be too careful or they'll have me next!)


August 28, 2010, 5:17 am

The world has gone mad!

The same thing like some american company tried to trademark basmatti yeah as in rice

Also 'teachbook' makes alot more sense then egotrip err i mean shutyerfacebook.con

we seam to be moving toward law set bay the company with the biggest bank account

this sorta craziness needs to stop.

or coca cola will the attack virgins

British Airways will sue every other airline

then they'll start taxing words... I could go on but i'm getting a headache...


August 28, 2010, 9:57 pm

@ Jay - I take back what I said about brand names. They of course need protection. But I have no issue with a play on brand names. For instance Pensonic is quite a large "brand" in asia. And was probably founded before Panasonic came up with their name. However obviously Panasonic being the more successful brand, would like Pensonic to change their name. They even compete in the same consumer electronics.

However Panasonic should not be able to trademark the Sonic part of the name in my opinion..


August 30, 2010, 11:06 pm

This is ridiculous...Facebook is ridiculous...Just one more reason why I'll never join.

@John McLean - The people at Facebook are way out of line here. Like your arch nemesis, Hans Gruber, said, there are a lot of sites out there with the name 'tube' (as well as 'you'). I quickly googled 'tube' and found sites like 'teachertube', 'godtube', 'tumtube' and 'schooltube', not to mention 'redtube' (come on, you all know what that is). All of these are sites where you can upload videos and share them with others. Yet YouTube (Google) doesn't feel threatened by them, nor should they. These other sites won't decrease the popularity of YouTube, just like Teachbook (or any other xxxxbook for that matter) won't decrease the popularity of Facebook.

And I don't think Google would be very bothered by a search engine called 'Zoogle'. In the same way that a car company called 'Moyota' would never be a real threat to Toyota either.

@Jay - I think it's fine if brands want to trademark their names, but that's not the point here. They shouldn't be able to trademark parts of their names, especially when we're talking about a common word like 'book'. Obviously Coca-Cola has trademarked their full name, but they don't have a trademark on the word 'cola'. That's why the supermarket budget colas are still called cola. Facebook's choice to sue is a childish one.

Now all we need to do is wait for Conan O'Brien's prediction (joke) to come true, when YouTube, Twitter and Facebook join forces to create a supersite, called YouTwitFace...


January 30, 2011, 2:08 am

Well facebook is trying to make a claim that "book" is "social networking" and thats what facebook is all about... I did a quick search the terms social networking book.

yahoo.com At 10 links per page the first facebook.com link was at page 13 #5 that 125 down the list.

google.com At 11 links per page the first facebook.com link was at page 11 #8 thats 130 down the the list.

bing.com At 7 links per page the first facebook.com link was at page 15 #7 thats 112 down the the list.

I just don't see the claim the thy are social networking "book".


January 30, 2011, 2:23 am

For thoes like facebook that think facebook was the first to use "book" in their name.

Live inuse Trademarks

myyearbook FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20040101 G & S: social networking services

LISTINGBOOK FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20001200 G & S: Providing online real estate advertising services


SHAREDBOOK FIRST USE: 20030100 G&S: personal and life events and memories

LIFEBOOK FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19961104 G & S: Computers; notebook computers; personal computers

The list goes on and on there are over 11K trademarks with "book". If I owned the myyearbook trademark I would sue facebook. Thy clearly owned their trademark before facebook. I think the use of XXXXX "book" has long been in the fair use class. Facebook suing only startup .com's not the that started just after them this will cost them a lot of money. Thy will lose...

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