So far, Facebook has been served with a ‘Notice of Allowance’, which means the USPTO is happy to grant the word ‘Face’ as a trademark. Now it’s up to Facebook to file a statement of use and pay a fee in the next six months. That is, unless it performs a volte-face - and that would involve some loss of face.
The terms of the agreement are typically po-faced: apparently the trademark will cover the word ‘face’ when it pertains to online chat rooms, bulletin boards or other online messaging services where users exchange messages ‘concerning social and entertainment subject matter, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars’ (the last of which seems like a rather odd exclusion to us).
It could lead to a face-off between Facebook and some of its competitors, though. Apple’s Facetime service, which allows iPhone4 users to make video calls, could be facing a lawsuit if Facebook is successful, while UK social network Face Party (incidentally the previous owner of the trademark), could also find itself paying the price for its moniker.
We know Facebook isn’t beyond litigation: the company is currently up in the faces of a number of social media sites, including Teachbook, Placebook and Lamebook which it says are ‘unlawfully capitalising’ on its popularity by using the suffix ‘-book’. In fact, last week the owners of Lamebook, a satire site, took the unprecedented step of launching a pre-emptive strike against Facebook, calling for its suit to be thrown out because, as a parody site, it’s protected by the First Amendment (which upholds freedom of speech).
But since its ongoing issues about data protection (not to mention the film The Social Network, which makes founder Mark Zuckerberg look rather two-faced) has left Facebook with egg on its face, is this the wisest decision for the company? Yes, protecting its IP is one thing – but this sort of territorial behaviour could just be cutting off its nose to spite its face. Does this mean every time another website uses the word ‘face’, it’ll have to pay up? And in that case, how much will MT owe on the basis of this article?