Facebook Attempts to Trademark the Word 'Face'

Facebook appears to be getting much more aggressive in protecting its brand, even going as far as attempting to trademark the word “face,” documents indicate. The company took over another application for the common word from UK company CIS Internet Limited.

Their application was filed in 2005 by that company, and TechCrunch’s Erick Shonfeld suspects CIS transferred the application to FaceBook around November 2008. Around this time the social networking site’s lawyers began to deal with the US Patent and Trademark Office over the application.

All is not smooth sailing — Facebook is getting opposition to the attempt from a familiar face. Aaron Greenspan was a classmate of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and last year successfully settled with the social networking company over his claims to being part of Facebook’s initial development.

Greenspan is again disputing Facebook’s claim to the word “face,” and has successfully gotten the USPTO to give him an extension of time in order to fight the company’s claims to the mark. He will have until September 22 to argue his case, and he may have some solid ground to do so.

“Face” is such a common word that awarding a trademark claim to it could potentially put several brand names in use already in jeopardy of legal action by the social networking site. How about FaceTime, Apple’s name for its video calling feature, for example? Some trademark attorneys argue that the word is so common that it cannot be trademarked.

It also could set a bad precedent for other trademarks, and a mad rush to attempt to get the rights to all kinds of common words that are found in currently existing brand names. These rights could then be used in turn to essentially extort money out of those companies.

Facebook already has bullied around a few companies over its names. Take for example PlaceBook. The travel site was forced to change its name to TripTrace after a legal threat from Facebook. TeachBook is also under fire, but that company is vowing to fight Facebook’s legal challenge in court.

Patent reform? How about trademark reform too. Sheesh.

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