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Facebook’s newest user agreement set off some red flags. When you logged onto your Facebook account today, you agreed that: “You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.” What does that legalese mean? If you log into Facebook, you are no longer allowed to use the word “book” without checking with the lawyers at Facebook first. Read the full agreement here.

This is a very aggressive move. By inserting a general word like “book” into their list of trademarked words, what is Facebook trying to do?

Here is some history about trademarks. There are two ways that trademarks arise. If you ever see the letters TM after a name, this stands for trademark. However, it specifically refers an unregistered trademark, which is honored because of its ubiquitous use. Unregistered trademarks are typically limited to their geographic area. If you open a restaurant in Chicago and call it Sally’s Diner(TM), you cannot sue a restaurant in Dallas that is also called Sally’s Diner. This is tricky because Facebook is a global business, so their geographic area is unlimited.

If you see the symbol that is an r in a circle, ®, that means it is a registered trademark. Registered trademarks are more likely to stand up in court than unregistered ones. Facebook has registered trademarks for the word “like,” “wall,” and “face,” but it is unlikely that the US Patent and Trademark Office would grant a registered trademark to a common word like “book.” In fact, earlier this year an education company attempted to register an official trademark for the word “book”, but they withdrew their application after a hearing with the Trademark and Trial Appeal Board.

So, it appears that Facebook is trying to wiggle around an official trademark registration of the word “book”. The company has not filed an application to officially register the word “book” in the US, though they have an application pending in the EU. Rather, by slyly inserting this new line into their user agreement, Facebook is trying to establish an unregistered trademark of the word “book” over time.

This is a big deal because Facebook aggressively pursues infringement of its copyright. In 2010, Facebook sued and successfully shut down a startup travel website called Placebook. Read the founder’s response to Facebook’s aggressive litigation here. Then, in 2011, Facebook sued a teacher-and-student site called Teachbook. The case has not been settled yet, but a judge last September declined to throw it out of court.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z recently trademarked their daughter’s name. Learn about why they did it.

What do you think of Facebook’s attempt to trademark the word “book”?

188 Comments

  1. ThatCoolGuy -  September 24, 2013 - 8:33 am

    Facebook needs to get a POKE in the right direction, FACE the WALL, sit down, and think about what they’ve done. One COMMENT will lead to another before we could fill a whole BOOK with slurs against them. They wouldn’t LIKE having to SHARE out their money because they go out of business.

    Oops, I’m going to get sued, LIKE, eight times for that. Trademarking words that are so common, that they weren’t even the first ones to use? It’s insane.

    Reply
  2. car insurance quotes online -  July 20, 2013 - 3:30 am

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  3. Binarystep -  May 26, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    This is incredibly stupid. Facebook is starting to irk me, what with their overuse of trademarks. Though I must point out that they did not trademark the word book; they trademarked the usage of “book” in a website name.

    Sincerely, an 8th grader.

    Reply
  4. Robert -  February 8, 2013 - 7:48 pm

    Book Book Book Book Book Book Book Book Book

    Reply
  5. Grace -  December 8, 2012 - 12:08 am

    Oh. So now I gotta introduce myself like that:

    Hi, I’m Grace. I’m a b*** editor.

    That’s just great.

    Reply
  6. lovin.it.gingerly:) -  November 6, 2012 - 4:44 pm

    exactly what “missing the point” said

    Reply
  7. lovin.it.gingerly:) -  November 6, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    …just as “al March 29th” said above
    …they’re keeping dibs on the “book-bank”

    Reply
  8. lovin.it.gingerly:) -  November 6, 2012 - 4:37 pm

    id say they did this to protect their amazing idea that has become viral
    kudos to them-again!

    Reply
  9. ginger.one. -  November 5, 2012 - 11:10 am

    all that they are doing is protecting their amazing idea…..
    no one likes it when someone copies your absolutely brilliant ideas
    I’d say it’s a smart idea and again kudos to them!

    Reply
  10. Lilac -  September 18, 2012 - 5:43 am

    I can’t believe they did that! O_O Well, that was very stupid of them. We use the word book all the time! I even made a website that was called ‘The Book of My Life’.

    Well, they might’ve been curious on what would happened…

    But I don’t blame you guys for being… enraged.

    Reply
  11. Michael Doyle -  September 5, 2012 - 11:24 am

    Could the fact be that Facebook is trying to possibly in a sense control the web / internet in generality around it but to the fact of ensuring that they can tell you what you cant do there taking there time on the fact of the book thing of trademarking it i don’t know the whole idea behind it but it does seem fishy
    if you understand what i mean

    Michael
    c. Doyle

    Reply
  12. Mike -  July 15, 2012 - 8:19 pm

    Ok. Facebook cannot sue someone for simply using the word “book”, whether they have trademarked it or not. The trademark is intended to protect similar products (see: social networking websites) from piggybacking off of the familiarity of the word “facebook”.

    It’s similar to how UPS has trademarked the color brown (yes, go look it up). Does this mean that they can sue people for planting trees or taking the browns to the super bowl? No. It DOES mean that if a delivery company suddenly sprang up and used the color brown as its main scheme, UPS could have a potential trademark infringement case against that company.

    Facebook is not some stupid company that’s trying to trademark everything. They’re trying to protect their brand, and they’re not the first company to do so. Learn what trademarks mean before you go ranting about how evil Facebook is.

    Reply
  13. David S -  June 19, 2012 - 6:13 am

    Facebook is crazy and some of it’s functions are vague and ambiguous. It does seem nuts and selfish to trademark the word “book” because that single word has been used long before Facebook ever came along. Recently I opened up a FB account again after closing it a year ago. Thought I’d give it another chance. Even though so far I’ve got about 50 friends (some of which I used to go to school with). None of them really seem to care about me at all. I know I don’t see these people in my every day life but I was sad to see when I posted about my broken foot NO ONE replied to it with any condolences what so ever. Also if you post about anything actually deep or meaningful people hint at you being a “Drama Queen”. It’s not like I was whining about running out of Oreo Cookies or dropping my sandwich on the floor. But if you post anything about how you’re feeling people seem to really hate that. All they want to do is press “Like” for Wallyworld or Target, post pictures of cats, and post pictures of political satire to hide their real opinions behind some funny cartoon image. Heaven forbid one of them would post a well thought out update about their political views. But NO they instead hide behind image posts with short captions. I have few real friends in my life and my family has been mean to me and pretty much ignores me. Joining Facebook only made me feel even more alone than I was before. People take the time to click “Like” on someones wall post about their favorite beer and even make a comment but I post about my broken foot and I get no reply what so ever. It’s not like I was looking for a shower of kisses and hugs, all I wanted was someone out of those 50 people to say “Get well soon” or “Sorry you hurt your foot”. But no I get crickets. The only time anything I really posted got attention was when I was complementing someone more popular or I posted a picture I took of some flowers. Facebook is the prime example of American Shallowness. People want to collect more and more friends who aren’t friends so much as acquaintances (and a lot of them very distant). Even the most popular person only really has a small group of real friends and those other 200+/- are just people they friend frantically all day long. Man I could have a heart attack and post about it and no one would say anything nice to me but most likely hint about how I’m being a drama queen for having a heart attack. ha ha Besides you know Facebook is shallow when the company trademarks the single word: “BOOK”. A word that belongs to everybody.

    Reply
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