– John Reinan, Senior Director at Fast Horse, a Minneapolis marketing agency
Let’s face it: Social media are taking over the world. And the biggest social medium of them all, Facebook, is well on the way to grabbing a premier piece of trademark turf.
Facebook has applied for a trademark on the word “face” when used in telecommunication services: “namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter.” (See the application here)
The application was first filed back in 2005, when you still had to have an e-mail address ending in .edu to join the site. Last month, a Notice of Allowance was issued, bringing Facebook one step closer to landing its mark.
The blogosphere has been a-twitter over this, fearing that Facebook will somehow be able to expunge the word “face” from every Internet site but its own. And to a non-lawyer, Facebook’s trademark application does seem very broad.
Transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest? Someone explain to me what kind of Internet-based communication would not be covered under that definition. Perhaps the bulletin board qualifier narrows it sufficiently.
However, I find it hard to believe that trademark laws would actually let a company appropriate a common English noun – not to mention a body part possessed by every human.
But try telling that to marketing blogger Frank Reed, who notes that Facebook also has gone after sites with the word “book” in their names, like Teachbook and Placebook.
Says Reed: “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.”
I’d love to hear what the trademark attorneys think. How far will Facebook be able to go?