Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Facebook Businesses The Courts

Facebook Denies Disputed Page To Both Mercks 210

Posted by timothy
from the virulent-pox-on-both-your-houses dept.
itwbennett writes "In follow-up to yesterday's story about how Merck in Germany is threatening legal action to take its vanity Facebook URL back from Merck U.S., Facebook apologized for its 'administrative error' in reassigning the URL but said that if the two companies can't play nice, no one will get the URL."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook Denies Disputed Page To Both Mercks

Comments Filter:
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:56AM (#38202824)

    Here, drink this soda and see if you still feel that way.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:58AM (#38202848) Journal

    This is a Mercky issue to wade through...

    • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:02PM (#38202896)
      I get the joke, but it's actually really easy one. It obviously belongs to the German company that originally registered it on Facebook. Why does US companies think they can thump on everyone else?
      • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:15PM (#38203060) Journal

        It just goes to show what an agreement with Facebook is worth.

        • by forkfail (228161)

          Oh, I'm sure that Facebook stuck to the letter of the EULA, which, without doubt, says that Facebook can do whatever they want now, and if you argue about it, they can change the EULA retroactively at will such that there's no question at all about the matter.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#38203106)
        At this point, it does not obviously belong to the German company because we do not know how control ended up in the hands of the U.S. company. It is possible that someone with the German company who had been designated to Facebook as the "administrator" did so. Obviously, it is more likely that someone at Facebook turned administrative control over to the U.S. company (probably because they did not realize there were two pharmaceutical companies with the same name and assumed that the representative of the U.S. company was the representative of the company that originally registered the name--it is even possible that the representative of the U.S. company did not realize that they were taking control from the German company when they did this).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That seems a likely explanation to me. Never try to attribute malice to an action that can best be explained by simple stupidity. Seems that FB needs to learn a thing or two about what a contract is.

      • Under current precedent and what not it is more along the lines it belongs to FaceBook to lease out who whoever. The German company merely requested it first.

      • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:25PM (#38203198) Homepage Journal

        It obviously belongs to the German company that originally registered it on Facebook

        No, it obviously belongs to Facebook (or at least as much as facebook.com belongs to Facebook, except that isn't quite as clear). Whatever Facebook decides to do with it, is defined as the right answer.

        • Facebook is still subject to national jurisdictions, and trademark law still restricts what Facebook is allowed to do with its own domain. Perhaps the most legally justifiable answer might be to geolocate the IP address, find the correct trademark owner for a given country, and then redirect to MSD's or EMD's Facebook page as appropriate.
          • by mr1911 (1942298) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:22PM (#38203956)
            Except that Facebook is still private property. They don't have to let you promote your trademark on their site any more than a company could force you to paint their logo on the side of your house.

            Denying both companies access to the name on Facebook is a completely viable and legal means to not infringe on any trademark.

            You may also want to brush up on trademarks a bit. It is possible to have the same trademark for different industries, and one does not trump the other. Say for example, I have a registered trademark for Apple toothbrushes. I am free to promote my trademark, even if Apple computers doesn't like it. Granted it does get even murkier when industries are similar across international boundaries, but one trumping the other is still a tough argument to make.

            In the end it is very funny that Facebook basically give a timeout to two companies acting like two year old children.
            • Denying both companies access to the name on Facebook is a completely viable and legal means to not infringe on any trademark.

              True, but it also costs [wikipedia.org] Facebook money. It denies Facebook the revenue it could realize from geolocated Pages.

              It is possible to have the same trademark for different industries, and one does not trump the other.

              Not if the mark is famous [wikipedia.org] like the Nike swoosh, the McDonald's arches, the Disney mouse-ear-silhouette, the Olympic rings, or the Red Cross emblem.

              • by mr1911 (1942298)

                Not if the mark is famous [wikipedia.org] like the Nike swoosh, the McDonald's arches, the Disney mouse-ear-silhouette, the Olympic rings, or the Red Cross emblem.

                I didn't say it was always possible to have non-competing trademarks. You cite logos, which are much easier to argue for complete exclusivity than names. Even if I had the registered trademark for Apple Toothbrushes, I would not expect to be able to use the Apple's bitten-apple logo for it. As you pointed out, logos are generally more protectable than names -- one would not expect to use Apple's bitten-apple logo for any purpose, regardless of the name or industry. Hence the power and attractiveness of

                • by tepples (727027)

                  You cite logos, which are much easier to argue for complete exclusivity than names.

                  I'd imagine "DISNEY", "NIKE", "MCDONALD'S", "OLYMPIC", and "RED CROSS" are likewise famous enough to qualify for dilution protection.

                  Facebook's action of denying both parties access to the name has made the geolocated pages concept more attractive to both.

                  Yeah, I'm familiar with the door-in-the-face method.

          • Facebook is still subject to national jurisdictions, and trademark law still restricts what Facebook is allowed to do with its own domain. Perhaps the most legally justifiable answer might be to geolocate the IP address, find the correct trademark owner for a given country, and then redirect to MSD's or EMD's Facebook page as appropriate.

            Actually, the most legally justifiable answer is exactly what they did in taking it down. Possibly breaking their entire system for a work around might also be legally justifiable, except that it provides no solution for countries other than the US and Germany. What about Italy, is the German company or the US company recognized there or in the EU. What about Japan or Canada, for instance. What about IPs that can't be resolved?

            Even if all that was solved, it still breaks the system. If someone in the US

      • Re:Difficult problem (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:26PM (#38203210)

        Neither of the Merck companies bought it, so it belongs to FaceBook. And the terms&conditions when registering the name includes provisions for not infringing others trademarks, and for Facebook to take back the URL for breaching the T&Cs.

        Facebook is doing the sensible thing here. The company names are distinguishable - Merck KGaA and Merck and Co. Given that neither is called just "Merck", it makes sense to make them use distinguishable pages, probably with their full company name.

        Better yet is if Facebook could put a page at FaceBook/Merck with links to both companies new vanity URLs.

        • by Canazza (1428553) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:38PM (#38203396)

          So you're suggesting a Disambiguation page?

        • Ehmm, no. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @02:42PM (#38205022) Homepage

          The company names are distinguishable - Merck KGaA and Merck and Co. Given that neither is called just "Merck", it makes sense to make them use distinguishable pages, probably with their full company name.

          "KGaA" is a German acronym for "Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien" which is sort of a "limited company/partnership" or something like that. So, the NAME of the company is just "Merck", with the KGaA designation defining the type of the company. Since you would always say the name of the shoe company is "Nike", when officially they are "Nike, Inc.", I would suggest it is the same with the "German" Merck. Moreover, the "US" Merck's full designation seems to be "Merck and Co., Inc.", you can't be pushing for dropping "Inc"s but keeping "KGaA"s just because in your narrow worldview you recognize the former and not the latter.
          So, the German company is the only one that is just "Merck".
          Now, what facebook should do or not do about it, I don't know and I really don't care.

      • by Surt (22457)

        Because facebook is a us company, and merck has a lot of money for lawyers, which is how these things are sorted out.

      • Why does US companies think they can thump on everyone else?

        Quite simply because, as you already seem to know, we in the US hold the copyright on bad corporate behavior and we ain't gonna license it to anyone else!

  • you go FB! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:59AM (#38202872) Homepage Journal
    wise like king Solomon.

    No, I can't believe it either.
    • by DriedClexler (814907) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:10PM (#38202996)

      Solomon's solution would be give one of them the "Mer", and the other one "ck", and then instantly void the deal and give it to whoever doesn't want to see the name split.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      wise like king Solomon.

        No, I can't believe it either.

      They go, not!

      Merck Germany had it first so your solution is to not return it to them after an administrative error? Two wrongs don't make a right

      King Solomon would have offered to cut it in half, but I'm not quite sure how you'd do that.

  • Trademarks? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:59AM (#38202876) Journal
    Fantastic, so now Facebook has the right of determining valid trademarks, on top of all the personal data it collects. I may be cynical here, but I get the feeling that 'playing nice' will involve the largest payment in combination with the best legal team.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:02PM (#38202888)

      Look, if they didn't want their trademarks appropriated they shouldn't have gone to war with us 93 years ago.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It's not a trademark issue. Whether they do business with a company is Facebook's choice.

    • Re:Trademarks? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cajun Hell (725246) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:13PM (#38203020) Homepage Journal

      Fantastic, so now Facebook has the right of determining valid trademarks, on top of all the personal data it collects

      It's is Facebook's namespace (and you can have on too, right now, if you want). They get to decide whether or not trademarks are even relevant within this namespace, let alone top priority at the expense of all other concerns. Why would it be anyone else's decision?

      Just because some random arbitrary private namespace out there happens to get popular, doesn't mean the rest of society needs to "officially" recognize it, legitimize it, adopt it, regulate it, or take it seriously. It's just a pathname component in someone's website, and it's their site, just like a hypothetical "Apple" directory on my computer which contains a file called "Disney" is my file in my directory on my computer, and no one else deserves .0000001% say in the matter.

      When today's fools finally learn this, then they won't be afraid of new TLDs, BTW.

      • by forkfail (228161)

        Ermmmm... no. Sorry. You can have a folder on your computer named Disney; you cannot put up a billboard on your own property using the name Disney to advertise something.

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          You can, unless it interferes with Disney's business. Trademarks are not absolute.

          • by forkfail (228161)

            And in this day and age, when a lot of people effectively think of the web as being equivalent to Facebook, I'd say that this infringes.

            But - it'll be the lawyers who figure it out in the end; whoever throws the most money at the problem will wind up with it.

            (PS: Go ahead and try putting up a billboard with the Disney name on it on your own property, and see what happens...)

        • Re:Trademarks? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:42PM (#38203436) Homepage

          Yes, but you can put up a billboard and refuse to let Disney by space on it. Facebook isn't using the trademark improperly, merely refusing to let either side use it. This makes perfect sense for Facebook. Whichever one it would have sided with, the other would have sued them. If it lets neither use the name, there's nothing they can do.

          • by Jeng (926980)

            Facebook could still be sued because Merck invested time and money into their product at which point that product was given to a competitor.

            It was bad that FB handed the account to a competitor, but it was worse when they didn't return it to the rightful owners.

            A EULA is not a contract. It does not hold the weight of a contract in court, how much legal weight a EULA holds is in question and could go either way.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          forkfail just pulled a trademark fail.

          Back to school for you.

        • No, but if I have a directory on my webserver called www.mysite.com/disney, Disney has no say in what I put there. If I start putting their trademark stuff in my directory and sharing it to the world, then they can do something about it... just having the directory doesn't mean anything. Maybe it's my tirade about how much I hate Disney. Now if two companies both own the trademark Disney (which is perfectly legal if they're in different fields or different jurisdictions as is the case here), I can freely

          • There is no company that trades under the name "Merck" ...

            One is
            Merck & Co., Inc/Merck Sharp & Dohme or MSD

            One is
            Merck KGaA/EMD Chemicals

            Both use just the word Merck in their logo ...

            They both have equal rights to the name on Facebook: no right to use, trademark right to stop the other ...

        • No, but you can refuse Disney to put up a sign on YOUR webpage.

      • It should potentially be regulated because when that private namespace becomes ubiquitous it has much more power than the namespace on your computer, which frustrates just you. For precedences, look at the telephone system, with it's ubiquitous namespace.
    • Re:Trademarks? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:15PM (#38203074) Homepage

      Makes one wonder what a Facebook account is really worth to a company (or pop group, or artist, whatever). On the one hand, the option of gaining & holding customers, and do lots of PR through the social network, on the other hand the possibility that at any time, if someone with same name (competitor?) creates a dispute about it, Facebook might close the account for no good reason.

      Who needs hackers for a DoS attack when Facebook could do the job for you?

      • Who needs hackers for a DoS attack when Facebook could do the job for you?

        So quit relying on other peoples web sites and get your own. Really, we have two pharmaceutical companies fighting over a stupid facebook account. If I was them I would be too embarrassed to even admit that I had a facebook account.

        • That "stupid facebook account" has become the equivalent of what a Google listing was around a decade ago.

          People are stupid. That's a fact we hopefully don't need to discuss. People get even stupider in the presence of a computer. Anyone who ever had to help an average computer illiterate with his computer woes knows that.

          Now combine that with the amount of people who "have to" be on FB. And the time they spend there. In earlier days, most computer illiterate people would spend most of their time on a certa

          • "That "stupid facebook account" has become the equivalent of what a Google listing was around a decade ago."....oh brother.
    • by RJFerret (1279530) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:22PM (#38203160) Homepage

      "Facemarks"

    • Fantastic, so now Facebook has the right of determining valid trademarks, on top of all the personal data it collects. I may be cynical here, but I get the feeling that 'playing nice' will involve the largest payment in combination with the best legal team.

      According to the original report [techworld.com.au]:
      Merck in Germany said in the filing that it entered into an agreement with Facebook on or about March, 2010 for the exclusive use of the web page. Merck said it assigned administrative rights to the web page to a limited number of people, who are its employees, or its external service provider for registration of domain names and social media user names.

      As I said above, it just shows what an agreement with Facebook is worth.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        US law trumps Facebook. US law says Merck & Co owns the rights to the word 'Merck' as related to pharmaceuticals in the US. Facebook had no right to give that page to Merck in Germany, so the agreement is meaningless. It may well be that German law says Merck in Germany owns that word in Germany. Since there is no way for Facebook to resolve this, they did the sensible thing and said no-one gets that page.

      • by paiute (550198)

        Merck in Germany said in the filing that it entered into an agreement with Facebook on or about March, 2010 for the exclusive use of the web page. Merck said it assigned administrative rights to the web page to a limited number of people, who are its employees, or its external service provider for registration of domain names and social media user names.

        As I said above, it just shows what an agreement with Facebook is worth.

        What genius at Merck read Zuckerberg's backstory and said to himself, 'Now here's a guy we can trust!'?

    • Re:Trademarks? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:23PM (#38203186)

      This happens a LOT in the software business. Google is trying to sort out which maps to show to which people based on 'official' boundaries (which may or may not reflect actual boundaries, and some boundaries are not filed with the UN publicly so who the hell knows where they are). I worked on a game recently where we were trying to figure out the official border between france and germany at a particular point in time, the area in question has changed hands something like 17 times. 6 guys in a basement were asking very serious questions like the legal status of egypt and sudan under Britian (and how to model that?) the legal status of Taiwan (and whether that meant our game would get banned in China, and whether or not we cared). There are lots of messy legal areas you sometimes have to pick something and role with it.

      Facebook only has one facebook.com/yourname url to give out, and honestly, they don't want to be involved in the fight over who is more Merck than the other, that's why they're telling them both to sort it out themselves. Facebook has no idea who has a more valid claim to the name, and, this is of course muddied by them being in separate areas. Facebook might have to oblige the US trademark for the US branch of the company in the US, and the european version in Europe or just have to oblige the US version or, well, who the hell knows? There's no winning answer here. They may have signed a contract, but my suspicion is that the contract would only be valid if Merck (gmbh) was the legal trademark holder, which, depending on the circumstances, it might not be.

    • by JWW (79176)

      If your trademark is part of a URL controlled by Facebook, then that's too bad. Yes, Facebook does have the control here. If Facebook removes the face book.com part, the URL is gonna be pretty useless.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:59AM (#38202878) Journal
    So, Facebook screws up, and now it's up to the original URL holder to "play nice" and let someone else squat with them? Keep it up Facebook - you're just giving us yet another reason to show that you don't "get it" on so many levels.

    What next - people with their names as facebook urls having to "play nice" with others with the same name who come later?

    • Well it's an improvement. MySpace's policy was to straight up give the URL to the better-monied party.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      And what would you do, then? It's not like it can magically decide which of the two companies you want to see when you input the URL.

      • by Lord Crc (151920) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#38203104)

        And what would you do, then? It's not like it can magically decide which of the two companies you want to see when you input the URL.

        I'd do what Wikipedia does, turn it into a disambiguation page, listing all relevant pages.

        • by tepples (727027)
          But then who decides which pages are "relevant" and deserve to be on the list, and in what order? Otherwise, Facebook turns into Google, having to somehow rank its results for display ten at a time.
    • In this chapter, we have two private corporations fighting over a subdirectory owned by a third corporation.

      All of these "people" are insane.

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      Keep it up Facebook - you're just giving us yet another reason to show that you don't "get it" on so many levels.

      Facebook is bad, for sure. But in a perfect world, I think this should really be showing us that entrusting your corporation's identity and goodwill (in this case, embodied in a Facebook path) to an unregulated third party is inherently risky behavior.

      Centralizing most identity and relationship management and placing it under the auspices of a single unregulated corporation? What could possibly

  • This is awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:00PM (#38202884)

    Two companies have just been bitch slapped for getting uppity about a common name in world market. How many other inane intellectual property disputes could have been resolved or prevented by doing this?

    • by residieu (577863)

      I don't see how this is awesome. Bobby had a toy, Jimmy came along and told the teature. "I want that toy!" The teacher took the toy from Bobby and gave it to Jimmy. Bobby cried "That's my toy! I'm telling Mommy!" The teacher responded by taking the toy away and not giving it to anyone.

      So rather than responding by acknowledging that they were wrong in taking the address away from the German Merck, they act like they're in the wrong for complaining.

      • Re:This is awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:50PM (#38204336)

        So rather than responding by acknowledging that they were wrong in taking the address away from the German Merck, they act like they're in the wrong for complaining.

        As parent of a two- and four-year-old, I agree with the strategy. Complaining makes you a baby. I don't care which one of them did it/started it/took it/broke it, they work it out between themselves. When I hear screaming from the other room over a toy that toy is gone for the rest of the day, no questions no interrogations no "getting to the bottom of it." I don't give a shit what happened. Screaming == toys are gone.

  • Translation: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by forkfail (228161) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:15PM (#38203064)

    Letting the bidding begin!

  • cutting the URL in half! Then we will see who it truly belongs to.
  • by cpghost (719344) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:18PM (#38203110) Homepage
    Really, wtf? Both companies have more than enough resources to set up their own domains and webpages where they can do whatever they want, without any kind of interference whatsoever. Why would they need to be on Facebook at all when they can have their very own place on the Net? This Facebook craze is going waaaay too far, IMHO. Individuals who don't want to or can't set up their own domains can go with it, no problems, but big companies?
  • This is EXACTLY like when my brother and I used to fight over a toy. Mom or dad would come in and declare that if we couldn't figure it out nicely, then neither one of us would get it.

    I actually commend Facebook for this. They probably don't want to deal with these disputes at all and this is really a good policy to have.

  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:38PM (#38203394)

    No soup for you Merck!

    How about they cut the facebook page in half and give each Merck a half.

  • So will this make companies have second thoughts about setting up a Facebook page? Why would Coke spend hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining and promoting their Facebook presence if FB can "accidentally" give the page to "Joe's House of Coke" and then refuse to give it back to the Coca Cola company when the mistake is discovered, even after FB admits it was an administrative error on their part?

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.

Working...