Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aaron Greenspan Settles Trademark Dispute With Facebook : Facebook as a Trademark for a Social Media Network

According to an InsideFacebook.com posting on May 22, 2009 by Justin Smith, Facebook Announces Settlement of Legal Dispute with Another Former Zuckerberg Classmate, and also according to a posting by Nick O'Neill on May 23, 2009 at All Facebook.com, which calls itself "The Unofficial Facebook Resource", Aaron J. Greenspan settled his trademark dispute with Facebook.com Aaron Greenspan Settles Trademark Dispute With Facebook.

But this does not mean in any way that the basic question of Facebook.com's rightful attempted appropriation of the name Facebook as a trademark is resolved.

Instructive in this regard is a posting at the Citizen Media Law Project, Naming Your Business: Choosing A Name Capable of Trademark Protection.

The trouble with the Facebook trademark claim is that allthough descriptive names can obtain trademark protection by use, a generic name can never receive trademark protection and there is little dispute that the term "face book" was used as a generic name for printed matter for the kind of thing that facebook.com is doing digitally.

As in the instant case, much is simply chance and circumstance involving forseeable developments in a given field, with the luckiest or cleverest or most ruthless operator winning.

InsideFacebook reported concerning the settlement as follows:
"In the statement, Zuckerberg said:

"Aaron and I studied together at Harvard and I’ve always admired his entrepreneurial spirit and love of building things. I appreciate his hard work and innovation that led to building houseSYSTEM, including the Universal Face Book feature. At school, I was even a member of houseSYSTEM. We are pleased that we’ve been able to amicably resolve our differences.""

So there you have it.

One of the principal areas in which the laws and courts have become hopelessly tangled is precisely in this arena especially in patent law, where the mere conversion of already invented things from printed format to digital application suddenly has been viewed by some to involve "an inventive step".

Legally, as a matter of trademark protection, Facebook can argue that in the digital field the trademark name Facebook for a social media network is not generic but descriptive, and as such is entitled by its already worldwide use to trademark protection as a social media network name. But in our view, that is all.

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