–Susan Perera, Attorney
Like most 20-somethings who went to college during the rise of this social media monster, I am quite familiar with Facebook. However, I wasn’t aware of the website Lamebook until the current legal dispute began. Lamebook, a self-proclaimed, “humor blog” was designed to allow people to share the most “ridiculous” things posted on Facebook. The Lamebook website is a satirical reflection of Facebook using similar colors, layout, and a variation of the Facebook mark.
Facebook, apparently not one to take a joke, requested that Lamebook cease use of its highly similar looking website and mark. The confrontation has led both parties to file lawsuits regarding the matter.
Facebook has made news in the past by going after websites with similar names such as Placebook and Teachbook, but this may be the first time they have gone up against a parody site. And, based on a cursory look at the matter, I would say Lamebook has a pretty good argument for fair use as a parody, which is protected under the First Amendment.
This dispute comes at the heels of another well-known trademark parody earlier this year, when The North Face sued The South Butt (discussed on DuetsBlog by Brent Lorentz and guest blogger Jason Voiovich). During that dispute, The South Butt received a bit of notoriety and publicity while The North Face braved some media criticism for going after the little guy. A few months ago the North Face dispute ended in an undisclosed settlement agreement, after which The South Butt has continued to run its website selling its parody apparel.
So what are brand owners to do when they face a distasteful parody? They might do well in ignoring it. Most consumers would have never known of The South Butt or Lamebook had these suits not been brought. Especially in the case of a “small potatoes” website, making a ruckus might only provide free press for that which you’re trying to suppress.
What are your thoughts on Lamebook and parody sites?