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Facebook is trying to register BOOK as trademark in Europe (europa.eu)
249 points by jwildeboer 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments

As a cycling fan we've had a few of these sorts of shady cases where people try to take a pre-existing term, trademark it and then threaten to sue people legitimately using it.

Recent examples that have amused me include when Specialized Bicycle Components released a bike named after the French town of Roubaix and its famous bike race on cobbled roads... then proceeded to start threatening other businesses also named after the town.

Or the company Peloton Interactive Inc which named its indoor spinning product after the commonly used name for a group of cyclists "peloton"... and then proceeded to start threatening bloggers for using the term to describe groups of cyclists.

What's particularly funny about the peloton case is that some other outfit in California is claiming a trademark on the term "spinning" to describe people indoors using static spin bikes... and has proceeded to start threatening small gyms for using that term.

Not sure if this is known as trademark trolling or not but I'm going to quietly trademark that term and start sending out threatening letters just in case.

Specialized is notorious for trademark scummery, it's a shame people still buy their bikes. Other words they've claimed are "epic," "rockhopper," and "stumptown."

I think a ‘business process patent’ to protect your trademark trolling is the way to go :)


> Just over a year ago, Yoga International broke the news that YogaGlo had filed a patent application for their method of filming yoga classes. YI (among others) had recently received legal letters claiming that some of our early video content fell under the vague description given in the application. Though YI removed the content, we were troubled by the broader implications of the patent request, and the precedent that it set for contemporary yoga culture as a whole.


Your comment infringes on my patent regarding commenting style.

Please cease and desist.

Fantastic idea!

This incoming in the cycling world, a company calling itself Carbon Inc has started 3D printing components such as bike saddles. I'm expecting them to start going after any manufacture using the word carbon on their products sometime soon... which is basically all of them. They'll make a mint.

I'm going to get in ahead of the game this time and register "3D Printing" to add to my new empire. How could I fail!

Actually Advanced Sports International, owners of the Fuji brand, licensed the Roubaix brand to Specialized in 2003. It's not even their own trademark.


I've never understood what they really gain from doing this stuff. Most of the time they aren't even direct competitors they're suing.

Do the courts not view this stuff with context of the specific business they are in, in addition to legacy/common uses of the word?

Ten years ago I developed a local rock climbing database called Climbook. Small website (~1000 users), no ads, no money involved. Facebook has spent the last 3 years suing the owner, saying it's a trademark violation. The first two rounds at court rejected facebook claims, now they're up for a third. Horrible people.

Years ago when I quit facebook it was because I hated how much I looked at it, and the distorted view it created of the world around me. Now I'm glad I quit just because it's wretched company that does wretched things.

You've described my experience perfectly.

I Hope the court will dissmiss the case and condemn FB to pay the legal bills (which is usual in my country for frivolous lawsuits).

We need something more akin to gun laws.

Using the court is an extreme level of threat against the average person. So someone who grossly misuses it should face similar penalties to someone misusing a gun; losing the right to access the weapon. Facebook being given a 20 year ban on going after anyone in court would be a good start.

How about make the penalties so high that lawyers will compete to defect the innocent from frivolous lawsuits. Minimum of 2x legal costs max of 10x legal costs for the truly wtf worthy. Has the advantage of not shutting people out of the legal system.

So, 20 years of no contracts, property rights, or anything else that would require a court to enforce?

When a person loses access to a gun because they abuse it, do we concern ourselves with how their diminished ability to protect themself?

This isn't like taking a gun, this is like locking someone in a metal box without food or water for 20 years.

No one is being locked inside a box. The punishment doesn't even directly impact a person, much less lock someone in a box.

Those legal bills are nothing to FB. The stress, even if fully compensated etc, on the owner would likely break anyone after a couple of "exposures"

That’s the whole point. A small expense for facebook is enough to kill a small business. It doesn’t matter if there’s any merit to the case

That's what happened so far, but they won't give up. They must have an army of lawyers with nothing better to do.

Whenever these trademark stories come up, everyone seems to get angry without trying to bother to understand how trademarks work. They think that they're like copyrights, that trademarks require originality or disallow all forms of copying or something like that. I'm generally in favour of trademarks and I don't think trademarking common words is as problematic as most people think.

When some word is trademarked, it doesn't mean nobody else is allowed to say that word. I can write all day and all night about windows, apples, and lifts without having to get lawyers in my face about it. And if the lawyers do come, they might just request that I acknowledge the trademarks that I was using in a way that could confuse consumers.

You don't need to defend everyone else's trademarks on your own. If you want to generically say to "google" as a verb for any kind of search, go right ahead. It's Google's job to defend that trademark, not yours, and I think they may well lose that fight some day.

Trademarks allow common, dictionary words. There's no requirement for a trademark to be original or creative. All it has to be is distinctive. I can call software "Windows" and I can call a music producer "Apple". Generic words are usually only disallowed as trademarks when they are used to generically describe the thing under commerce. Facebook couldn't become a bookseller with the trademark "book", for example. (Little known fact, though, "facebook" itself was a common word, referring to college-provided printed books with fellow classmates' photos on them. I assume since no one is making those anymore, or because Facebook never produced printed facebooks, they now can elude any accusations of genericism.)

The test for trademark infringement is, are you using the trademark in a way that a reasonable consumer could be confused that you're selling the same thing as what someone else has under the same trademark? I don't think anyone has been referring to all social networking sites as "books", thereby invalidating the claim that Facebook has a valid trademark on "book".

Please, try to understand trademarks. One of my pet peeves with people who lump them under "intellectual property" is that they think that trademarks are somewhat similar to copyright or patents, but these are all very different laws with different purposes, histories, and ways of being defended and infringed. It doesn't all just mean "reproduction is disallowed".

This is a type of HN comment that I see often and don't appreciate. Format: "Your disapproval of [thing] can only be rooted in misunderstanding of [technicalities]. [Flex re: said technicalities.]"

People who are familiar with how trademarks work can still be dubious of Facebook's attempt to register BOOK. Is there a context in which I would accept it as distinctive? Yes, of course: the name of a social networking service. Is Facebook applying under such narrow terms? Not as far as I can tell. And do I trust Facebook to be tasteful and show restraint in defending this trademark, if it's granted? Not in a million years.

P.S. This is almost beside the point, but remember when Monster Cable sued a bunch of small businesses—most famously a mom-and-pop mini-golf course—over trademark infringement?[0] At the time, there was no shortage of pedants chiming in to say that Monster didn't _need_ to be such a bully, that it wasn't an issue of the trademark system per se. As if that were some consolation!

[0] https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080515/1940111131/

There's a kind of shallow pedantic contrarianism that is unfortunately part of the culture.

You have to defend a trademark or you can lose it. I had to assert my rights to baccarat.biz when the Baccarat crystal company tried to take it away from me. I don't blame them. But I wanted to retain the name and I prevailed in arbitration. Now I wound up not using the name (hope to someday) because (for the most part) online gaming was reserved for the brick & mortar casinos and horse racing tracks.

That may be technically correct. But Facebook trademarking "BOOK" is just stupid, on its face.

Also, I note that "facebook" itself was a term that had been used by universities for years to describe books of students' faces. As by Harvard, which Facebook was riffing on.

Maybe it's OK to allow such trademarks. But there ought to be restrictions on holders suing over currently typical usage.

I mean, Amazon has far stronger standing to trademark "BOOK". And they'd be foolish to not contest this.

I think it's appropriate to have a bias toward hostility when a large company makes a large claim, because they've got the legal resources to win basically any dispute once they have a foothold.

> I can call a music producer "Apple"

Even if you could, it would likely be a legal pain in the ass. Apple fought over using the letter "i" as a prefix to product names.

Might as well start fighting as soon as a large company even tries to claim something with a public-domain vibe.

Perhaps I'm missing the subtle point here, but you can't call a music producer Apple, even if you predate Apple Inc by a decade, and have millions of dollars to hire lawyers. You can license the trademark from them though, if you are lucky.


Trademarks in the USA are based on First to Use, not First to File. Some countries are First to File.

The linked article states that up until 2007 Apple Inc had the trademark for software and related business, and Apple Corps for Music production/physical distribution. Then in 2007 Apple Inc purchased Apple Corps trademarks for USD 500 million.

I'm reminded of Nissan vs Nissan.

Yeah, but this was Apple Corp suing Apple Computer, multiple times. And they more or less prevailed, in that Apple Computer has paid them settlements.

>Apple fought over using the letter "i" as a prefix to product names

that's comparing apples to oranges though, isn't it? i as a prefix for product-names seems critical, as such-labeled products were heavily and uniquely associated with apple-products, whereas a music-producer isn't intrinsically representing apples brand, just because they share the name. apple is a giant brand, but you can in fact can still buy apples without thinking about computers or steve jobs

Apple is in the music business though. If you combine "Apple" and some music business I think you can expect trouble.

In fact they (and Facebook, and others) are in so many businesses that any trademark they claim is going to have wide impact.

Funny, because there was trouble, but it's actually the opposite of what you might expect. Apple was the one who was getting sued for entering into the music industry.


Yeah, Apple Corps was founded by the Beatles in 1968 (before Apple Computer existed).


Sure, I wouldn't assume they'd just ignore it - the comparison to i-prefixed products just seemed inadequate, and the 'apples and oranges'-ref essentially wrote itself :-)

_All_ y'all ignorant of Apple Corps? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Corps_v_Apple_Computer

Not that big a deal, just a hilarious(ly apt?) example, considering the history.

Fun fact from this - System 7 added alert sounds, and Apple Legal was worried about the name “chime” being too musical. The annoyed creator of the alert sounds renamed it “Sosumi” (pronounced “so sue me”) and told them it was Japanese.


Too beautiful!

I agree with you in general. However, as others have already pointed out, Facebook wants to claim protection for a really (REALLY) wide range of goods/services. If granted, pretty much anyone selling software or hardware using "book" in its name might be vulnerable to bullying by Facebook's lawyers.

Typically, one just registers a word trademark for a very small number of service/goods classes (e.g., here's a registered trademark for "car" which only applies to certain medical devices and services [1]).

A large company trying to claim "book" for pretty much the whole Nice Class 9 is not normal behavior.

[1] https://euipo.europa.eu/eSearch/#details/trademarks/00939884...

Even as a trademark and not a copyright, I see at least one area requested which seems highly ambiguous: "Software to enable accessing, displaying, editing, linking, sharing and otherwise providing electronic media and information via the internet and communications network" Now, let's imagine a book publisher who wants to devise his proprietary software to display and share his books, I could imagine he would fear that this trademark would impair him to use the simple word "Book" to do so. Same for Virtual Reality devices: if there is on day a VR adaptation of books, in which you could walk and interact with characters and follow the plot from within, the use of the word 'Book' would make sense for the collection (regardless of whether this is a good commercial idea or not), but what would be facebook reaction about that if they are granted the trademark, especially as they are quite involved in VR ?

I respect your lengthy comment but I will respond with a much much shorter one. If the "law" (regulation, constitution, etc.) defies logic and sense, then it is the law that should change. Not rape the planet and its inhabitants because that CANCER called Facebook with those greedy bastard C-suites and shareholders want to "move fast and break things" want to add one-more-zero to their bottom line. They deserve oblivion. Nothing less.

I'd agree with you, except there are enough counter-examples to give me pause. See the Peloton and Roubaix examples in the sibling comment. Companies can and do trademark common words within their industry and use that as a legal sledgehammer.

In your examples (Windows, Apple) the word isn't a core part of the industry (or, wasn't when initially trademarked).

I'm fairly sure on this site that virtually everyone understands at least the basics of how trademarks work and many or most still disagree. Your write up is informative, useful, and I think on on the wrong track.

The interesting point is not whether bob's bookstore to exist and advertise or that you can continue to blog about books. Nobody believed either of those things were in danger.

Everyone here at least likely knows that trademarks are bounded by categories except theirs is so voluminous were I to paste it here it would take up an entire page. The best I can figure it basically means anything at all to do with any sort of computer.

I for one don't think there is any reason to believe they ought to own the word book in conjunction with any hardware or software. There are in fact I'm sure plenty of people already "infringing" who would like to continue doing business without scum bags demanding protection money.

This is just another example of the fact that Zuckerberg doesn't even know what the "right thing" looks like.

phoneBOOKs and addressBOOK's are both relevant to social networking.

And many early webpages had guestBOOK's where people could leave comments.

Did you see the list of goods and services they seek BOOK trademark for? It's pretty long, would be easier to list what is _not_ included. Some examples:

> Software in the nature of a mobile application > Messaging software > Communication software and communication computer hardware for providing access to the Internet

and the mighty fine, generic,

> application software

Now this may or may not be FUD: don't go holding your breath until they would come with a lawsuit against anything that matches book.

I suppose its worth noting that the company is trying to trademark them in Class 9:

Class 9

Scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; automatic vending machines and mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; fire-extinguishing apparatus.

Explanatory Note

This Class includes, in particular: – apparatus and instruments for scientific research in laboratories; – apparatus and instruments for controlling ships, such as apparatus and instruments, for measuring and for transmitting orders; – the following electrical apparatus and instruments: (a) certain electrothermic tools and apparatus, such as electric soldering irons, electric flat irons which, if they were not electric, would belong to Class 8; (b) apparatus and devices which, if not electrical, would be listed in various classes, i.e., electrically heated clothing, cigar-lighters for automobiles; – protractors; – punched card office machines; – amusement apparatus adapted for use with television receivers only; – all computer programs and software regardless of recording media or means of dissemination, that is, software recorded on magnetic media or downloaded from a remote computer network. This Class does not include, in particular: – the following electrical apparatus and instruments: (a) electromechanical apparatus for the kitchen (grinders and mixers for foodstuffs, fruit presses, electrical coffee mills, etc.), and certain other apparatus and instruments driven by an electrical motor, all coming under Class 7; (b) electric razors and clippers (hand instruments) (Cl. 8); (c) electric toothbrushes and combs (Cl. 21); (d) electrical apparatus for space heating or for the heating of liquids, for cooking, ventilating, etc. (Cl. 11); – clocks and watches and other chronometric instruments (Cl. 14); – control clocks (Cl. 14).

they are going for the libra black book? liber = book?

libra = balance/scales (for weighing). Also, it was a unit of weight in ancient Rome.

“liber” is a masculine noun of the 2nd declension and thus has no grammatically sensible connection to “libra” which is a feminine noun of the 1st declension.

Or a whole series of Facebook > OtherthingBook trademarks, perhaps. See Easyjet and its use of Easy as a trademark.

Facebook is trying to register BOOK as a word mark at the EUIPO (EU Intellectual Property Office). The application is "under examination".

This means that EUIPO decided this application meets the minimum requirements and has actually assigned an examiner to this instead of refusing the application as it is IMHO too generic.

An examiner would refuse the application as too generic... They don't really have pre-examiner-examiners.

Hmm. Johannes Gutenberg is a little ahead of them, 580 years ahead of them to be exact.


They were called codices (plural of codex) back then, though.

I hope EU uses this application for a few laffs, then denies it.

What's next? Will they tried to register FRIEND and LIKE as wordmarks? How about "FAKE NEWS"?

Trademarks allow dictionary words. Windows, Apple, Uber... These are dictionary words. Usually trademarks only disallow dictionary words if the business being trademarked is too generically described by that word. For example, a window cleaner called Windows or a produce seller called Apple; that's not allowed.

The point of a trademark is to be distinctive. Unlike copyright, there's no requirement for a trademark to be creative or original. I don't care to find the details of what Facebook is trying to trademark, but it may well be the case that "book" is a valid trademark.

There are already 2 LIVE trademarks on book at TESS at (uspto.gov). One bothers me at the company wants to ("Digital on-demand printing services of books and other documents.") use it for a business involving book printing.

Ohio State University recently tried to trademark the word "The". Thankfully they were denied.

Sometimes a denial is success, though. It means nobody else can swoop in, trademark it and prevent you from using it.

Good point. Someone on r/cfb made the same point, but the idea of marketing "The" caps and shirts was still widely mocked, even by OSU diehards.

They're not the only ones trying to trademark THE: https://trademarks.justia.com/884/16/the-88416806.html

Everybody here is dismissing the idea that business could be affected because book stores are in some kind of other category - what about tech and software like

book2: language learning platform

Galaxy Book2: Samsung Product

book.com: Barnes & Nobles URL

duelingbook.com: Yu-Gi-Oh! Simulator

books24.in: Online Billing

book24.ru: Web book store

bookweb: American bestseller association


I understand the idea of trademarks and would not call it a bad one - it makes sense that companies want to protect their name from direct copycats in the same sector. It is fair that some companies protect deviations from their actual name, too (Twitter, tweets. Microsoft Windows 10, Win10). But nobody calls "Facebook" "book" and it's not like they have a palette of products with the word in it, like iPhone/iPad/iOS or something. If somebody can explain how they're possibly acting in good faith here please elaborate, but I hope they get shut down, especially since it is well established that megacorps can just keep bullying regarding trademarks and the like, even if they are clearly wrong [0].

[0] https://nissan.com/

Trademark is evil same is with patent and copyright. It's just a corporate tool to gain free money from work of people who passed away long time ago. Those tools have one purpose - stop innovation and progress for years.

One can imagine a world without patents or copyright still thriving. How can a consumer marketplace exist where its impossible to discover which of 100 products are made by whom and which are likely to fall apart or kill you?

Trademark has a purpose.

What purpose exactly ? Only corporate products are good and other are trying to kill me ? That's your point ? McDonald sandwich will kill me or Apple iPhone ? Maybe facebook can kill me ? Qualcomm processor ?

Or maybe you think sole people doesn't build cars/planes and don't use them in public ?

Anyone can read about anything anywhere and yeah older people also talk about products they use and how good they are. They actually talk about it more than younger people.

I recommend you a great book by Cory Doctorow "Information doesn't want to be free" you can buy or download it.

I recently registered 'twitbook.uk' when the .uk TLD opened for general registrations, with the intention of running a satirical social network that would blatantly ask for personal information, allow open bidding to access the data, and provide features such as 'make me angry' or 'validate my opinions'. Just for fun of course, no real information would be solicited or sold.

I wonder if such a site would be considered a violation of this trademark, were it to be granted.

When do you think you will get it running? Right now I just see an apache welcome page. A parody social media site is something I want to see

It's hard to say, since this is really just scratching an itch. It'll be on GitHub as soon as the first meaningful version is available, contributions will be welcome.

You might be interested in this parody social media site: https://www.futurebook.co/

Parody/satire sites, especially non-commercial focused, are usually fine.

You may run into trouble because of the handling/distribution of personal information though (GDPR compliance and such).

Disclaimer: Not a lawyer

twatter.com seems to be doing fine.

Warning: that site is definitely NSFW. Please remember to mark as such. It's also not what I am aiming for.

Nothing beats the $6 Million "We" trademark.

Reminds me of the story of how Porsche wanted to name their car '901', but Peugeot had (has?) a trademark on the three number combination with a zero in the middle. So Porsche had to rename their car to '911'. The rest is history as they say.


Intel has copyright on the lower-case letter 'i'. I claim victory.

Victory forfeited by mixing up copyright and trademarks. I know intellectual property is a mess but at least get your terminology right.

Deutsche Telekom has trademarked the use of the color Maganta (RAL-4010) for telecommunications products.

Trademarking colors is very common and to be honest, kinda reasonable given a domain. "McDonald's Yellow" or "Coca Cola Red" are good examples.




     i™ claim victory.

In 1996 The Netherlands had a mobile network called Hi

They also had an internet provider called Het Net (The Net)

Given the umpteen categories they have this application applying to, what would their purpose for doing this be? To register "FACE" and "BOOK" together?

They already own the trademark for "FACE" [0] in the context of "Operating of chat rooms, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars".

[0]: https://euipo.europa.eu/eSearch/#details/trademarks/00385277...

Sooo would FaceTime run afoul of this?

Would a reasonable person believe FaceTime is associated with Facebook?

I suppose I'm not a reasonable person, then. I was under the impression FaceTime was a Facebook product, or at least bought from them.

I think I've heard the phrase "idiot in a hurry", so, yes, they could be confused.

The cars exception is odd. Is there already a similar brand that's associated with cars?

They apparently had opposition from the organization "RACE":


Amazon might take issue with that.

And Apple

Can someone explain to me what the implications of this trademark could be? Would that mean that a store that sells books and would have the word Book in their logo or brand could expect a lawsuit?

I'm not that familiar with trademarks and such.

trademarks are market specific. You could be a bookstore called "whatever book" and be fine. You could not be a social network and call yourself "whatever book". The general idea is to prevent things from being associated with a brand in the consumers mind when that thing has no right to the association.

Some of the markets they're applying for seem a little questionable. Looks like they're trying to claim far more than just social network.

* Downloadable e-commerce computer software to allow users to perform electronic business transactions via a global computer and communication networks

* Magnetically encoded gift cards;

* Software for accessing and viewing text, images and electronic data relating to conferences in the field of software development;

* Software for making reservations and bookings;

* Software for ordering and/or purchasing goods and services

* Software to enable accessing, displaying, editing, linking, sharing and otherwise providing electronic media and information via the internet and communications networks

> * Software for making reservations and bookings;

The word BOOKing should be a giant flag that they're trying to trademark the generic name there. Reservation book, order book, etc all come from physical books. It would be a giant stretch to try to trademark book for software covering those things.

> * Magnetically encoded gift cards;

That'll be interesting in the UK and Ireland, at least, given the existence of National Book Tokens (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Book_Tokens, https://www.nationalbooktokens.com), which I believe are magstripe-based these days.

Trademark work by classes.

Facebook is trying to register "book" for class 9 (Computer and Software Products and Electrical and Scientific Products).

The bookstore would most likely be in class 16 (Paper and Printed Material Products) and therefore won't be affected.

How does this pass the straight face test. The proposition is insane, I hope I wake up and this is all a fever dream.

I think this is pretty much for occupying legal departments with benign work. At least in some European countries with strong legal lobbies, they are very welcome to do that. It is also sometimes used to advance shady trademarks that can only succeed in contrast to applications like this.

Shout out to Barnes and Noble, owners of book.com :D I hope Zuck doesn't try to harass them next.

Seems just like lawyers doing lawyer things. People always read headlines like this and imagine Zuck sitting around a conference table with a bunch of his underlings cackling about their next big evil plot, but I bet he doesn't even know about this it's just their legal team doing what they've been paid to do - protect their trademark as much as possible.

Just because someone is paid to do evil things doesn't mean it's suddenly okay. In fact, getting paid is one of the most common reasons people do evil things.

Capitalism doesn't work as a moral compass.

This is too close to home! My company is being sued by a company claiming the suffix KEY.

Noobs should become familiar with ICANN, WIPO, the US trademark database (TESS) at (uspto.gov), GDPR (European Union), and the European Union's trademark database ( https://euipo.europa.eu/eSearch/#details/trademarks/01807570... ). As well as the rules for obtaining a trademark or patent. I hope Facebook isn't obtaining a work mark trademark. Hopefully, only a design mark. Along with the words "NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE "GAME" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN". Book is a generic word and doesn't show source. The EU shouldn't give Facebook an exclusive right to use book. Steve Feibish (book.us)


Can't they just fuck off?

"It's cleaner"

sueBook.com :-)

We are in desperate need of a startup like that - a social media mechanism that organizes classes (as in class action) and goes after companies. Let lawfirms bid on the cases (percentage/prestige + vote on the best lawfirm to take the go)


As is this application.

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