Saturday, December 10, 2011

Facebook sued over use of "Timeline"

Social networking site, Facebook, is sued over use of the word "Timeline". The claimant is Timelines.com.

Facebook Timeline, a feature that was unveiled recently, transforms the Facebook user profile into a virtual scrapbook that lays out your digital history. Timelines.com lets users view and create multimedia timelines for historical events.

Why is Timelines.com suing Facebook [Source]?

Our company owns a valid trademark on the term "Timelines" that is for a particular application, specifically for "providing a web site that gives users the ability to create customized web pages featuring user-defined information about historical, current and upcoming events." We've spent years building this brand and using it in the above stated way on our site Timelines.com.

Facebook, a company that has applied for or trademarked the terms "Face", "Wall", and "Like" as well as sued others for using "Book" in their names, is using the name "Timeline" for a new product that is focused on how people express and share events and history online. Facebook either knew or should have known (given their rigorous defense of their own intellectual property) that the US Patent and Trademark Office granted us this trademark. People at Facebook could have at least contacted us for permission to use or license the name. They did not.

Here's a link to the Timelines, Inc. filing.

Now, Facebook is firing back against Timelines.com with a counter lawsuit claiming no infringement of trademark because the word "Timeline" is a generic term. There are 5 categories of distinctiveness when it comes to Trademark - Fanciful, Arbitrary, Suggestive, Descriptive, Generic. If Facebook really find "Timeline" falls in the weakest category "Generic", then isn't their own trademarks "Face", "Wall", "Like" and "Book" are even more generic?

Is this a case of the big bullying the small?

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