Facebook Sues Startup Over Use Of Word 'Book'

Educator social network Teachbook is trying to trade on Facebook's popularity, says lawsuit.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

August 26, 2010

2 Min Read

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Facebook has filed a federal lawsuit against Teachbook, claiming that the use of the word "book" in the startup's name infringes on the popular social network's trademark.

The complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., claims the problem arises from the fact that Teachbook is a kind of social network for teachers, and is using "book" in its name to ride on Facebook's coattails.

"The 'book' component of the Facebook mark has no descriptive meaning and is arbitrary and highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking websites," the lawsuit says. "If others could freely use 'generic plus book' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix 'book' could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services.'

"That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook marks, impairing their ability to function as unique and distinctive identifiers of Facebook's goods and services."

Greg Shrader, managing partner of Teachbook, denied the site was trying to take advantage of Facebook's popularity, arguing that within the context of a community site for teachers, the word book in the name made sense.

"We weren't aware that Facebook owned the Internet and the word 'book," Shrader told InformationWeek late Wednesday.

Teachbook, founded last year and based in Northbrook, Ill., has yet to open for business. The site hopes to go into testing in the fall with a select number of teachers and become generally available early next year. In general, the site plans to offer tools to help teachers manage classrooms and communicate with parents and students, and to share lesson plans, instructional videos, and other resources.

Facebook challenged Teachbook's trademark application soon after it was filed last year, Shrader says. Teachbook was still hoping to reach a compromise when Facebook served the startup's lawyer with the suit early this week.

Shrader said Teachbook would not "roll over" in front of Facebook's legal challenge and would fight the lawsuit.

"This is a David and Goliath situation," Shrader said. "They're bombing mosquitoes."

The suit does not specify damages, but asks the court to declare Teachbook's trademark application void and to bar the site from using it name.

Lawsuits like Facebook's are not uncommon. eBay fought the Web site Perfume Bay for several years over the its use of the word 'bay.' eBay won on appeal in 2008, and Perfume Bay changed its name to Beauty Encounter.

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