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I really wish this person, in the course of an otherwise sane argument (one that I feel for tremendously, as I have spent the last five years of my life organizing a community of people who do nothing but modify other peoples' software products, one that I always have felt has numerous analogies to what people do with GreaseMonkey scripts and browser extensions), didn't feel the need to play the "they don't own the letters FB" card... that is a ludicrous way of looking at trademark law (which involves a large dose of context sensitivity: if you are using FB for a coffee shop that is very different than an app that changes how people use a product that is often abbreviated FB). To then further claim that it stands for Fluff Busting and doesn't have anything to do with Facebook is just trying to play the audience for a fool: it doesn't matter what it "stands for", those letters would not have been chosen in this context had the name of the website been different.

He's referring to Facebook's previous attempt to take him down, which centred around a trademark claim against his use of the word "facebook". According to him, that dispute was resolved when he agreed to use only "FB".

Obviously, their new attempt to undermine him uses a different angle, but you can't blame him for re-hashing his earlier woes.

It is clear what he is referring to: it doesn't make the argument any better; his entire document, including the section regarding the prior and current dispute over trademarks, would be drastically improved by the removal of the paragraph where he complains about Facebook not having "a worldwide claim on the 2 consecutive letters FB" and how his usage is actually "short for Fluff Busting"; it demonstrates a severe misunderstanding of how trademarks work. :(

I think it's too bad that the top discussion on the entire issue is the silly argument about a trademark. But since that's the case, I don't see it as a misunderstanding of how trademarks work, but a perfect way of demonstrating how fatuous Facebook's trademark claims have become. After trademarks on the words face[1] and book[2] now they also claim to own the letters fb. How is that any different then someone trademarking socialmediawebsiteforumblogimagegallerynews.com™ and suing the Internet out of existence. Even WordPress suggests using wp in a domain[3] instead of the word wordpress. Facebook never had a problem with domains that used fb before, they're only complaining now as an excuse to shut down a service they don't Like™.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/23/patent-office-agrees-to-fac...

[2] http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/159628/teachbo...

[3] http://wordpress.org/about/domains/

Trademark is fundamentally about consumer confusion. The whole point of even having trademarks is so that when I e.g. buy a fizzy drink labeled Coca-Cola, I can be reasonably assured that it was made by that company, and is not some knockoff. Similar or identical names can be used in different markets without trademark difficulty as long as there's no potential for confusion. Or such is my limited understanding.

Facebook doesn't get to own the letters "FB", but they do get to own those letters in contexts where use of those letters would confuse people into thinking that the product in question comes from Facebook. Calling your new line of leaf blowers "FB" would probably be fine, but calling your browser extension specifically targeted at facebook.com "FB" is begging for trouble.

There are actually eight different factors which the courts use as a "test" for infringement. Of those eight, I would say a majority fail the infringement test for Facebbook. Mainly because "FB" is not part of its primary trademark. Thus, the "FB" presents a weak case for the "Strength of the plaintiff's mark." element.

Here are those 8 factors for argument sake:


Your argument ignores the example, and continues to expose the same misunderstandings about trademarks that are popular on the Internet: trademarks have nothing to do with owning words or imagery, they have to do with context.

As an example of how wrong this argument path is: right now there is a trademark application published for opposition on the word "FACE", an acronym by the Florida Autism Charter School of Excellence, Inc.

They have been using this term since 2007, and I see no reason why they will not get their trademark filed, because it does not conflict with Facebook's usage, as you simply would not get these two usages confused.

In fact, these usages are encoded into the registrations themselves: you have to specify a class and define how you use the mark, and then that mark only exists within that limited area; you can stretch it some, but those stretches are all fairly common sense.

As an example: if you had a restaurant called Apple, it would matter severely how you rendered the Apple, what kinds of other imagery and colors you used, etc.; even though this was outside the scope of computers, you might still fall under their trademark.

But, they DO NOT "own the word Apple". To continue to make such claims demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of why trademarks exist and how they work, and doing so in this post is undermining and diverting from the real issues.

now they also claim to own the letters fb

Hmm, I wonder how people are going to refer to a casual, recurring sex partner now!

Probably the same they have been for along time, "fwb"....

Those are two very different acronyms.

Wow...not sure how I completely missed that. But I did just hear the sound of a "whoosh" as the original thread went right over my head :(

hi saurik, i am the fbp dev, thanks for the critique and advice, to be honest, i don't know much about trademark law, but then again i expect 99% of the population dont either.

Considering that it would almost certainly count as a parody I would imagine it would be project under the 1st Amendment at least in the US.

Do you know of cases where tarde marks that were considered parody were still ruled as illegal in the end?

It is not clear if you just see "fbpurity.com" that this is parody, so it would be difficult to make that claim for the domain name, which kind of needs to stand alone as it is rendered alone. I do agree, however, that this person is unlikely to fall into trademark straights on this name (I maintain it was just thrown into the list of complaints to make them longer and more imposing, which would then lead to longer trials and larger legal fees arguing if it ever came to that). The argument, however, was out of place.

I agree it is a weak argument but in any event I see the usage as legitimate in any event - as he is using the term 'FB' in a descriptive manner to help to describe the purpose of the product. There is nothing wrong with this in trade mark law generally provided in good faith (see nominative usage[0]).

Facebook would argue that the usage is piggy-backing on the goodwill in the name (as with the coffee shop example) but in this case, I think there is a very good reason why 'FB' is being utilised.

Personally speaking, I would argue this is why they are using other means to restrict the growth of the extension rather than using a more traditional cease and desist letter more geared to trade mark rights (at least as far as I'm aware).

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_use

> I see the usage as legitimate in any event - as he is using the term 'FB' in a descriptive manner to help to describe the purpose of the product. There is nothing wrong with this in trade mark law generally provided in good faith (see nominative usage[0]).

Agreed. Trademark law seems to be aimed at preventing companies from pretending to be some other company. This clearly doesn't apply to generic names, like "Sofa Vacuum" or "Photocopier Repair". But Facebook is something that's become de facto ubiquitous, a service almost universally used in the US - more ubiquitous than many generic things.

Surely, then, in the case of companies that provide services that relate to Facebook, there's justification to make direct reference to FB in their names? The major consideration is whether there's much likelihood of these companies being mistaken for the original company - but a name like "Purity for Facebook" (or even "FB Purity") seems like it wouldn't be confused as being from Facebook itself.

Companies are obliged to defend their trademarks, but I hope sanity prevails in the courts, and people get to call their applications "Windows RegistryMaster" or "Mac Backpack" or anything else that isn't confusing or misleading. I'm probably underestimating how messy it'll be to sort out justified (descriptive) usages from the ones that are just piggybacking, though.

Is "FB Purity" really the only way he can name his product? A court is unlikely to agree with that.

He could describe the product as something that purifies Facebook, but that's much different from actually naming the product "FB Purify."

Yeah, I don't think Facebook is crutching the trademark argument here at all: it is just thrown into the list of complaints to make them longer ;P. I additionally think that "F.B. Purity" could probably be defended (if not on "nominative use", then on how Facebook themselves largely prefers "f" to "FB" in their branding in addition to not capitalizing the B in general at all)... what I dislike is having that argument "they don't own the letters FB" thrown in there, as that isn't how trademark claims work. :(

Screw that bs. What, no one can use any NASDAQ stock name as a prefix, suffix or in the name at all? I can't publish a book or record a scene with 'google that' because Google wants to protect their brand?

Are nations going to publish a list of 'good' words that we can't get sued for using, and name it 'neotalk'?

Downvoted, because you're completely ignoring the point, which is that 'anyone' is allowed use the letters FB just fine, except for people that make an app that modifies Facebook or is similarly involved with Facebook. Just repeating your point of view doesn't engage the arguments levelled against you.

Shouldn't those other 20 developers using FB in their chrome extension on the chrome web store also get the same lawsuit? I feel like this developer might be singled out, since it directly reduces facebook's profits by removing sponsored stories, ads, etc.

Facebook has been contacting other developers. I know one of them. They aren't singling this guy out.

Of course, new chrome extensions can pop up faster than FB's legal department can respond, so the mere existence of other people that haven't been caught yet is not evidence of selective enforcement.

AFAIK, Facebook is legally entitled to being as inconsistent as they want to be, allowing companies they like to use 'FB', while suing companies they don't like. They are entitled to single out developers that encroach on their territory.

Now the morality of this behavior is an entirely different discussion...

That's true for copyrights and patents, but NOT trademarks. The latter are in a "defend it or lose it" regime.

FWIW, I believe that it is more "you can lose it if you lose control of it"; just because you haven't enforced it is not a big deal if the people you haven't enforced it against are sufficiently small that they wouldn't have been noticed in a wide enough audience to undermine your trademark.

(In essence, the argument is not a technical one: it is only interesting in that it changes the dynamics of "could someone have been confused"; if people see the word "Facebook" as a moniker on products all the time that are not made by Facebook, then clearly they are not going to be confused by any individual one.)

I sort of agree: You don't automatically lose anything. But once you sue to enforce your trademark, the court looks at the body of evidence - and may determine that the trademark has been diluted and has been lost. There is no AFAIK predefined threshold (or way to measure, for that matter) the dilution of trademark - a different judge/jury may reach different conclusions.

And basically, that's why most trademark lawyers will act on even the smallest unauthorized trademark use - they do not want to leave it to chance.

Aren't you at risk of losing some of the scope of your trademark if you do not consistently enforce it?


Trademark law is designed to protect customers, and is designed so if you see "Facebook" or "FB" in the context of a social network, that you know you're dealing with the same company.

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