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The Courts

Facebook Says It Owns 'Book' 483

An anonymous reader writes "The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Facebook has sued a tiny start-up called over the use of 'book' in its name. The start-up, which has two employees, aims to provide tools for teachers to manage their classrooms and share lesson plans and other resources. 'Effectively they're bombing a mosquito here, and we're not sure why they want to do that,' co-director Greg Shrader told the Tribune. Facebook said its use of 'book' in its name is 'highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking websites.' Facebook apparently is alleging that no other online 'network of people' can use the word 'book' in its name without violating its trademark."
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Facebook Says It Owns 'Book'

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  • Give Me A Break! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:06AM (#33378754)
    Perhaps next they'll go after everyone who uses the words cookbook, handbook, and textbook.
    • ... or buttbook, which is perhaps where this lawsuite should be booked under.
    • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:45AM (#33378930)
      Not according to what they said: It's not that they are using 'book' -- we have no complaint against Kelly Blue Book or others [...] However they feel that: Teachbook was unfairly riding on its coattails by using the suffix "book" to reference the larger site's established reputation.

      Given that teachbook is a social networking site but for a specialized niche, I think it's fair to say that they are doing that. In my opinion they should have that right, though. Trademark law makes sense - other companies shouldn't be able to impersonate yours, but that should be limited to there being an actual chance of confusion. Doing something similar as someone else, and profiting from an established market - well that's just capitalism. Facebook can always compete by having a better product.

      Facebook argues: If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' [...] the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for [...] 'social networking services'

      Again, I think that's probably true but that is how language works, and they should have to live with that.

      • by dynamo ( 6127 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:07AM (#33379024) Journal

        Not only must they live with that (..BOOK being a generic term for social networking services), but if there's such an obvious association, they should be thankful that they will be getting free advertising indefinitely, the way the big G does every time someone tells you to go google something.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rutefoot ( 1338385 )
          In the world of marketing that is one of the worst or best things that can happen to a brand, depending on who you ask. In extreme cases people might not realize a particular name is actually just a brand name (such as escalator or thermos). It then becomes very difficult to market your product properly and next to impossible to fix it after it's already happened. Worse, if you let your brand become that genericized you risk losing the ability to enforce your trademark. In the case of thermos or escalato
      • by Fumus ( 1258966 )

        Should Apple sue Intel over their i7 Core stuff? And every other iStuff product?
        Come to think of it, yes. I'd like that. Maybe then all the retarded iNames would be gone.

      • Re:Give Me A Break! (Score:5, Informative)

        by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:19AM (#33379292) Homepage

        Given that teachbook is a social networking site but for a specialized niche, I think it's fair to say that they are doing that.

        If you go to [] and search for "book" you get over 9.000 results, including hankybook, partybook, planbook mobook. I'm pretty sure this [] is FB's record. Their description of services pretty much covers the earth, moon and stars online. It seems overly broad, even including peer-to-browser photo sharing services namely, providing a website featuring technology enabling users to upload, view and download digital photos. I'm not sure how it got through without being narrowed.

        Normally there's a reference that says it's not an attempt to trademark a generic word (like "book") but I don't see that in FB's app. Probably because their mark is FACEBOOK and not FACE BOOK. I'm not entirely sure, I've only been through the process a couple times.

        Seems like a stretch to me. If their name was "teacherfacebook", then I'd side with FB. But trying to trademark "book" in the context of any online collection of individuals seems way out of line. Since one could argue that online repositories are merely a modern evolution of books, then you're basically letting FB trademark the world.

        • by boxwood ( 1742976 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:47AM (#33380526)

          do you think they would have named it teachbook, if there was no such thing as facebook? Seriously?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by HangingChad ( 677530 )

            You may have a point. Then again Victoria's Secret sued people over Victoria and Secret separately, in the context of lingerie and apparel shops, and lost pretty much all of those cases.

            I still think _BOOK is overly broad and their mark scope overreaches, but it's entirely possible the courts will see it your way. There will be plenty of discussion that _BOOK as in YEARBOOK or PICTURE BOOK are generic terms in broad usage.

            I cam still hope that an over-reaching corporate dick that makes their living se

      • The legal concern isn't just that they're making a similar competing product, or that there will be confusion that Teachbook IS Facebook. The concern is that there will be confusion that Teachbook is a product of the Facebook team or that it is endorsed by Facebook or that it is affiliated with Facebook in any way. There are many families of products that share a particular element in their names, so it's not a far-fetched concern.

        We've gone over this time and time again, for many different companies and products. Facebook is obliged by law to actively defend their trademark when the name of a competing product is similar and is in the same line of business. This is not a case where we can attribute any motivation to Facebook other than the fact that they're trying to carry out their legal obligations to retain their trademark. They risk losing the legal status of their trademark if they don't sue. Whether their claims are valid are for the courts to decide.

        Other posts have said "what about this? What about that?" There are a few considerations to take. Did, e.g., Fuckbook file a trademark application for its name? Are cookbooks social networking sites? Some of the suggestions are simply absurd.

        I mean, I hate trying to defend Facebook (indeed, I may even find Teachbook useful in a couple months' time), but you guys don't really have a problem with Facebook here. What you guys have a problem with is the law that requires Facebook to do stuff like this. But instead of recognizing this and having a meaningful conversation about whether or not trademark law is reasonable in its obligations, the editors allow flamebait articles like this on the site and get people all riled up not against the cause of the issue, but against only one of the many symptoms of the issue. Absolutely ridiculous. Quit feeding the trolls, guys.

        • by anegg ( 1390659 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33380458)
          Your point is well-made, and I agree with most of what you say. However, I find that there is often value in the re-examination of practices and legal concepts by the ignorant legions of Slashdot contributors. Left alone, without review, legal practices such as trademark registration and defense become very specialized and separate from the real world. I think its useful for more-or-less ordinary people to run into the specialized jargon and practices and rant about them, possibly uncovering a certain amount of ingrown idiocy in the practices, and possibly effecting a change for the better. I've always been slightly idealistic, but without ideals, where would we be?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by camperslo ( 704715 )

      If facebook is going to try and muscle out the other bookies the mugbook is the place for them.

    • by richlv ( 778496 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:12AM (#33379250)

      maybe they should rename themselves to facepalm

  • ...and go throw them at Facebook.
  • No one has registered yet!
  • At last we are shown the Facebook business model. Who knew there were so many people to sue?

  • by bronney ( 638318 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:07AM (#33378766) Homepage
    • by rednip ( 186217 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:46AM (#33378940) Journal
      Who said that they hadn't sent a C&D letter to them? Chances are that TheFacebook had sent to many others, but the teachers figured that publicity would help their cause, and 'the media' picked up on it. I'd say that they were right to do so, as publicity doesn't get any cheaper. Of course the longer they hold out on the name, the more expensive it could get (lawyers, judgement, etc).

      Personally, I don't think that TheFaceBook has much of a case, particularly as 'Phone Book' would seem to be their 'root' concept.

      • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:00AM (#33379000) Homepage Journal

        Personally, I don't think that TheFaceBook has much of a case, particularly as 'Phone Book' would seem to be their 'root' concept.

        From Wikipedia:

        The original concept for Facebook was borrowed from a product produced by Zuckerberg's prep school Phillips Exeter Academy, which for decades published and distributed a printed manual of all students and faculty, unofficially called the "face book".

        Bloody hypocrites..

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dumnezeu ( 1673634 )

          They're not hypocrites. It clearly says that the name was borrowed [] , not stolen. I'm sure they're honest people and they'll pay the school sooner or later. We must consider Facebook to be innocent until proven guilty and, until now, there is no proof that they won't pay... right?

    • also... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tdobson ( 1391501 )
  • Effectively they're bombing a mosquito here, and we're not sure why they want to do that.

    Anyone else read this wrong as "bombing a mosque"?

    • Effectively they're bombing a mosquito here, and we're not sure why they want to do that.

      Anyone else read this wrong as "bombing a mosque"?

      No, I did not read it wrong...
      But I guess Facebook doesn't realize yet that Muslims have a Holy Book. The religions of the world will be sued next week.

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

        But I guess Facebook doesn't realize yet that Muslims have a Holy Book. The religions of the world will be sued next week.

        What's the betting that facebook won't be going after []

      • by c0lo ( 1497653 )
        Is any of the Holy Books a social networking site?

        However, on this line, I do feel a sense of danger for the people of the book if they would start a social networking site.

    • I read it as boning a mosquito :(

  • oh ffs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:17AM (#33378808)

    Oh man, fuck off, Facebook, you giant corporate retard.

    This trademark and patent stuff is getting beyond a joke. No-one will be able to do anything soon for fear of infringing on somethingorother from them or Amazon or Apple or MS or MPEG LA or blah blah because they claim they got to buttons or text or selling some bullshit first or some crap. No wonder innovation is drying up, piracy and sticking it to the man is rampant and no-one gives a toss about anything - everyone's too busy covering their own ass and hoping it will all magically go away.

    There's protecting your innovation, trademarks, rights, etc. and then there's being a giant muppet. Facebook is a giant muppet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chomsky68 ( 1719996 )

      No-one will be able to do anything soon for fear of infringing on somethingorother from them or Amazon or Apple or MS or MPEG LA or blah blah because they claim they got to buttons or text or selling some bullshit first or some crap

      But isn't that what they want? The point when noone dares to do anything is reached, they are going to laugh coz they achieved their aim, namely you're not going to be able to use anything but their products...

    • by kaptink ( 699820 )

      here here.. You should run for president. Given that this site really doesnt have anything to do with what facebook does apart from teachers talking with other teachers, it makes me wonder why. Perhaps the legal department needs something to do? Which is surprising given the number of dickheads spreading hate on fb. I think the question I am most interested in is how on earth can someone claim to own the rights to a word like 'book' .. Perhaps it is just a scaresuit. Anyway, lawyers are douchebags and trade

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I represent the estate of Jim Henson; we are hereby issuing a Cease & Desist request regarding the above post due to your use of our trademark "Muppet".

  • by mrstu ( 1253256 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:27AM (#33378858)
    Did some peeking on the wayback machine... domain names that were registered before facebook launched: Perhaps the most damning, though.... this is from way back in 1999: "Welcome to Buddy, an innovative internet address book which helps keep track of all your online experiences." [] It's not that similar to facebook, true... but it's a 'social' thing, which by their own logic, seems to be close enough... whoever owns that site ought to sue them!
    • by weicco ( 645927 )

      I guess that FB, or its owners, is planning something which is called Teachbook behind the scenes? (rhetoric question)

    • Buddybook 's owner is in big trouble then. I figure the next step in courtroom crazyness will be to retro-sue. That wouldn't be much more crazy than what we see now.
  • they should call themselves EasyBook.

  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:31AM (#33378878) Homepage

    Teachbook appears to be a social/community website, close to the area of what Facebook does. I would think that the "teachbook" name was chosen on purpose to be "facebook for teachers/teaching". Well, you can't do that without facebook going after you. IANAL so I don't know if facebook can or should prevail, but it seems to me that they sort of have a point.
    Now, contrast this to a previous action of facebook: []
    They went after a startup travel website, i.e. a site for you to book vacations in the places you visit called... well... placebook! I mean who better for the name placebook than a site where you book... places... The site in question had, in the end, to back down and change their name to triptrace: [] . Now THAT was ridiculous.

    • by wjh31 ( 1372867 )
      on the other hand, getting sued by one of the worlds largest web based companies into having to change your name sounds like hella cheap publicity if you dont put up much of a fight
  • by Somewhat Delirious ( 938752 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:35AM (#33378894)

    Normally I would be strongly opposed to that kind of thing but since Facebook appears to have completely lost the plot it seems we are facing the rare situation where a book burning is warranted.

  • They shouldn't complain too hard. Before Facebook sued them I had never heard of the web site. Now I know about them. Free publicity!

    The trouble is of course if Facebook really wants to bring it to court they may have a problem fighting it even though it sounds to me like a nonsense suit from Facebook's side.

  • [] (I would be very surprised if they did, as it would give the "religion of peace" an opportunity to show their own method of objection again) [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

    That's just a few of them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by boxwood ( 1742976 )

      not really. The word "book" in "teachbook" is a reference to facebook. When anyone hears "teachbook" they immedaiately think "facebook for teachers".

      All of those sites are references to actual books.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hedwards ( 940851 )
        What makes you think that? Wouldn't it be more logical for it to be a reference to "Yearbook"? Considering that facebook is itself a reference to a reference to yearbook itself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cparker15 ( 779546 )

        When I first heard "teachbook", I thought about teachers teaching from books. See also "das Lehrbuch" in German.

  • Phonebook ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by abies ( 607076 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:44AM (#33378920)

    I wonder if they will go after the telecoms - after all, phonebook is a kind of huge listing of phone-using community...

  • Corporate Abuse (Score:2, Insightful)

    And how is this tiny, 2 employee company supposed to defend itself? No matter how right it is, 2 people will be bankrupted in no time. This is the nature of our corporate-owned country, inhabited by masochistic neo conservatives who want giant, faceless institutions with no obligation to anyone to step all over them like cockroaches. With the power of our vote we could use the government as a tool to protect the little guy from those with the resources to do almost anything they want. Instead we have Ob
  • by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:46AM (#33378938)

    Crap like this is the result of the US judicial system and your "elected" government. Your government enables this kind of rubbish. In the sentence before my last I surrounded elected with inverted commas. I did this because it seems to me as an outsider that the voice of the US people is incredibly diluted in US elections and things in general. Big business seems to have more of a say than individuals. There will be heaps of comments in this story saying how stupid it is, but your "elected" government doesn't care what you think -- it appears to care more about big business. What a load of shit. US, the land of opportunity? If you say so, but I am glad I don't live there. I'd rather pursue opportunity elsewhere in countries where opportunity really exists and is not an illusion created by a government. It's not facebook's fault that stuff like this can happen -- it's the US population's fault for _allowing_ it to happen.

    • I hate to say it, but you're more or less on the nose here. The populace is less inclined to vote because a vote means little, and the votes that do come in are financed by big business and their ability to push advertisement.

      Democracy, in concept, is a fabulous idea; but when it gets diluted not to the number of votes but to the number of precincts/states/electoral votes won, well, it's no surprise that we are where we are in the US. A vote should be a vote, not a vote to try and determine how someon
  • OK, every now and then I've heard of the "letter of the law" vs. the "spirit of the law" with regards to arguments like this, but rarely does it stoop to the "uber-rich-greedy-asshole-who-wants-even-more" level of interpretation...

    Companies like Facebook should really take a moment to realize that 15 minutes of fame doesn't apply to just Hollywood anymore. Keep tempting fate with douchebag moves like this, and they'll soon find out.

    • I don't think it'll even fly on the "letter of the law". It's clearly bullshit, inasmuch as claiming infringement on a substring of a trademark is an uphill battle, especially for common words. They're hoping to scare this site into a juicy settlement which will give them ammo for scaring further sites.

  • one was yesterday, riaa crap was the day before. i was telling that its not that these copyright, patent, tm systems are 'exploited', its that they ARE exploitative and unworkable. and some people were saying that i was trolling.

    every day another bullshit comes up because of these. what point does things have to come to, for some of you people to understand a SYSTEM is wrong, or unworkable ?
  • Come on Diaspora, give these bullies a run for their money so they know that they're not the only kids in the sandpit.
  • Boycott (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pesticidal ( 1148911 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:55AM (#33378980)
    Someone needs to start a facebook group about boycotting facebook!
  • From the whois record of, seems like the record is from 29-jan-2007. I believe facebook has been around since that time no?

    Domain Name: TEACHBOOK.COM
    Registrar: ENOM, INC.
    Whois Server:
    Referral URL: []
    Name Server: NS1.M446.SGDED.COM
    Name Server: NS2.M446.SGDED.COM
    Status: clientTransferProhibited
    Updated Date: 12-mar-2010
    Creation Date: 29-jan-2007
    Expiration Date: 29-jan-2011

  • Scandalous! (Score:4, Funny)

    by srussia ( 884021 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:05AM (#33379020)
    They should call this whole affair "Facebookgate".

  • by SpaghettiPattern ( 609814 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:19AM (#33379294)
    They should sue Not because of the book thing but because it confounds people by cleansing and thus diluting their filthy business. I for one was looking for OK bimbos but didn't get any there.
  • Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Giometrix ( 932993 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:30AM (#33379344) Homepage
    Wasn't teaching associated with books long before "social networking?"
  • by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:38AM (#33379390) Homepage Journal
    I'm thinking of starting a new website and calling it

    No book in that name. I'm safe!

  • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:04AM (#33379538)

    There are 54 matches in /usr/share/dict, though facebook isn't one of them.

    $ grep .book$ /usr/share/dict/words | xargs echo
    bankbook blankbook bluebook boobook cabook casebook cashbook chapbook checkbook classbook cookbook copybook daybook doombook dopebook guidebook handbook handybook herdbook hornbook hymnbook jestbook landbook lawbook logbook matchbook needlebook notebook outbook overbook passbook playbook pocketbook pollbook promptbook rebook roadbook schoolbook scorebook scrapbook shopbook sketchbook songbook spaebook storybook studbook stylebook talebook textbook tithebook waybook wordbook workbook yearbook

  • by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:28AM (#33379686)

    Do you think they'll come after me for

    It's a social networking site for chickens...

  • Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Push Latency ( 930039 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:35AM (#33379732)

    In my experience, a directory/book for private high schools and colleges which shows a head-shot of each student and faculty member, gives their address on campus and their home address, has been called a "Facebook" for a long time. And seeing as Facebook was originally open to only .edu users, I'm pretty sure that was the idea.

    That's what it was called at the school I attended in the early 90's anyway.

  • by nycguy ( 892403 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:56AM (#33380656)
    I put Facebook on my shitlist.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972