Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trademarking "Face"

Techcrunch got some mileage out of the USPTO issuing a "notice of allowance" to Facebook on trademark rights in a certain field of use for "Face":

Facebook is just a payment away from trademarking the word “Face.” As of today the U.S. Patent And Trademark Office has sent the social networking site a Notice of Allowance, which means they have agreed to grant the “Face” trademark to Facebook.

USPTO Agrees to Grant Facebook Trademark Over Word “Face”

And, at Mediapost:

Meanwhile, "If Facebook is awarded a trademark on the word 'face,' it shouldn't interfere with Apple's mobile video calling service Facetime, since the Cupertino-based device maker has a trademark on that term itself," Inside Facebook writes.

One commenter did write:

This is a classic case where "ignorance" about trademarks plays in favor of high rating and controversy.
What Facebook are trying to trademark is the use of the word "face" in electronic applications (Telecommunication as an alternative word for "online") offering social (i.e. facebook like) applications. This make a lot of sense. Just like many other generic terms used in a non trivial way.
the word "face" is not descriptive in the way that "myface" describes (literally) an application where people may comment and interact socially. This is why also Apple's FaceTime will not breach the trademark, as it is using the word face literally (enabling the other side of the conversation to see your face) and not referring to the word Face in the non-dictionary meaning of it, which is attributed to facebook's phenomena (namely social networking). This doesn't give facebook the rights for the use of the word face for a face recognition software, or for other non related use.

I personally agree that facebook should get the rights for the usage of the word face in the "social network" meaning, as they created this meaning, and protect them from people launching services named faceXXX or XXXface that may indicate relationship to facebook. This is just like caterpillar trademarking the word "cat" for construction and manufacturing equipment (but not getting rights for CatFeeder, or LolCats).


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