Facebook Lays Claim to 'Book' - and They'll Sue You To Keep It That Way

“We’ve been sitting here scratching our heads for the last couple of days,” says Greg Schrader, managing director of Teachbook.com. Greg’s head does not have an itch.

In an puzzling move, Facebook has decided it owns ‘book’, and has subsequently filed a lawsuit against Teachbook, an Illinois-based company that provides online tools for teachers to manage and share resources.

Right away, I guess that sounds pretty reasonable. Teachbook does seem to be playing off Facebook’s popularity, and Facebook tends to agree. “If others could freely use ‘generic plus BOOK’ marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals,” says the lawsuit, “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.”

Aight, Facebook. That’s cool. I get that. But consider that Teachbook, as of  yet, has two employees, and less than 20 users. If this lawsuit was a kung fu stance, it would be called ‘ornery rhinoceros crushes grape’. Something tells me they’re not exactly going to take a bite out of your user base just yet.

“We’re trying to understand how Facebook, a multibillion-dollar company, feels this small enterprise in Chicago is any type of threat,” says Schrader. He believes that the term ‘book’ is a perfect fit for a website centered around education. And he’s not wrong. You’re not wrong, Schrader.

The chances of this ending well for Teachbook are slim to none; though, that this lawsuit has been given so much attention is a bit of an edge for the David to Facebook’s Goliath – that is, of course, if users agree.

Do you? Is Facebook right to protect its neck by going after any site using the suffix ‘book’? Apple’s never bothered to stem the tide of i-prefixed products, why should Facebook get butthurt? Take a walk to the comment box and weigh in.

Written by Ty Dunitz

Ty is an illustrator who stays up too late, and has to wear glasses. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to (@glitchritual), but he's just gonna throw your stupid PR crap in the garbage, so don't email him.
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Comments
  • http://www.twitter.com/_This_is_JaY_ James

    This is very interesting. I’m not really sure what I think about this but as far as why facebook is suing a website with such a small user base is probably because facebook is afraid that this user base will grow and expand just like facebook did by using their claimed word “book”.

    • alex

      Considering techbook is an educator oriented service it doesn’t seem likely that it would ever provide any competition against facebook mass social networking. Techbook isn’t intended as a social networking for everybody site. The are for two different subjects, markets, etc. It’s a special intrest group, not even a social networking upstart. Even if they were, they should be offering to buy the domain, not suing for it.

      Not only that, it’s absurd for anyone including a company to think they can just trademark an unformatted or stylized word for the sole purpose of stoping anyone else from using the word like they did online. It’s ridiculous. I may as well lay claim to my name and sue EVERYONE who has the name Alex to stop using it. I’ll go around filing injunctions and cease-&-desist orders against everyone who has my name. It’s the stupidest thing in the world.

  • Shane

    I think it’s ridiculous. Websites and companies using the suffix “soft” in their name have not diluted the branding of Microsoft. I’ll concede there is a bit of a gray area, for instance if the site’s purpose was to create and maintain social connections. The danger is if Facebook sues and wins, it sets a precedent that would make it easier for them to go after others for using “book” that may not be using any type of social networking features. For instance if I made a website called Laughbook.com that was meant as a means for comedians to network with each other then Facebook would be in the right to sue me for treading on their popularity (assuming I hadn’t created it before Facebook came online), but if I had a site called Laughbook.com that was ment to just be an online joke collection then their suit would be baseless.

  • Bryan

    I agree with Shane to a certain degree. And there are social networking aspects to Teachbook.

    But all you have to do is read through even a small amount of documentation on the site to see that it is meant to be much more than a Facebook clone for teachers. It lets teachers create lesson plans, online courses, and set up grade books to track students grades. It seems to be meant as a tool for teachers and the social aspect is meant to supplement the tool with help and advice from other teachers.

    Not to mention that the only “social” aspect of the site so far is a forum. If Facebook goes after this site, then they can go after any site that uses the word book in its domain name and has a forum? that’s ridiculous. I hope bookstore.gpo.gov doesn’t add a forum. The government would have a fight on its hands. LOL

    So my vote is that Facebook should back off. At least in this case.

  • http://www.divendo.dk Charlie Nielsen

    Damn. That’s pushing it too far. Such a shame that a bunch of suitboys with money can actually have the power of attorney to overrule simple logic. Of course Facebook shouldn’t have the rights in these type of conflicts.
    I guess it’s the patency lawsuit in the EU over again. Microsoft, BSA, et.al. wanted to be able to patent an idea such as a loginbox, infoboxes, etc. and not the sourcecode. That’s hilarious, but not to be taken lightly as their lawyer-army has influence(s)

  • alex

    I think it’s a load of horse crap, and if they don’t like others using it then they better start thinking if and registering a HELL OF ALLOT of domains, and set aside a good chunk of cash for buying other established domains. Because, they can’t just have the word, and they can’t just sue everyone who uses it in ways they don’t like. If they like capitalism so damn much maybe they should pay to own it just like everyone else. All the sueage in the country is really pissing me off. What pisses me off even more is that tax dollars get wasted on the bull shit.

  • http://mariancates.com Marian

    Is it too late for Google to lay claim to the name “mail”? Maybe Microsoft should claim that “bing” can no longer be used to describe cherries or as the prefix to “go”. And who owns “.com”? That needs looking into. Fb longs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and they’ll succeed, as new social networks come along. They should concern themselves with this situation, not whether their competitors (and non-competitors) choose to use the suffix “book.”

  • Robert

    Facebook, what a arrogance, Zuck sucks, he his a complete idiot and, my granfather once told me, Rob do you want to know the essence of people? “Give the power” they will show they real truth, and it shows that Facebook it is a real jerks site I HOPE IT BLOWS IN YOUR FACE Zuck

  • http://ardentpixels.com Max

    This is ridiculous. I can’t believe a bunch of silver-spoon man-children are trying to do such a thing to little company. Don’t get me wrong, if I were to say launch some site that ripped off facebook’s design, not to mention their convoluted UI, and call it something similar to facebook, I would expect some repercussions. However, a teaching website with the word book in the title… imagine that!

    And, now they all of a sudden think they can lay claim to a word?! Just because George Lucas owns the word “Droid” doesn’t mean you can pull it off, Zuckerberg & co.