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Has Facebook Gone Too Far to Protect Its Brand?

Bobby Travis

This is a post by Bobby Travis, who wrote with me at 40Tech from 2009 through 2012. Bobby has since moved on to bigger and better things, but I've left all of his great contributions up on the site. - Evan
Bobby Travis

Has Facebook Gone Too Far to Protect Its Brand?

As a marketing professional, I understand the importance of protecting brand identity. I get that it means dollars, and that any infringement upon or blanding of a company’s identity can, in the long run, have a negative effect on that company’s bottom line. I understand that a company as culturally dominating as Facebook has to worry about their brand becoming so “household” that their trademark can become non-enforceable (“google” anything lately?) — but does that give them the right to demand that an upcoming social network for teachers remove the word “book” from its name?

Teachbook is currently being sued by Facebook, who is demanding that Teachbook change its name. On the one hand, I can see their point: Teachbook is a social network and it is unlikely that this social network has not heard of Facebook. It follows, then, that Teachbook is “riding the coattails” of Facebook’s popularity and using the brand recognition generated by the social giant to establish recognition within their own niche. Facebook views this as a dilution of their brand name, and also thinks that Teachbook’s use of the word “book” could create false impressions of a relationship between the two social networks.

It all sounds pretty reasonable, really, when viewed from that standpoint. However, does being a monstrously huge, globe-spanning force of a company give all encompassing power and control over the word “book”? If you take one look at Teachbook , you will never confuse it with Facebook, nor will you really consider that there might be a relationship between the two. Also, consider the fact that there are other social networks out there already using the word book in their name, such as Doctorsbook and, erm, [email protected]#$book (note the tasteful censorship, here… feel free to google your own link – and yes I used Google as a verb on purpose). No lawsuits have been levied against these companies. If Facebook is trying to make a point of keeping their brand from dilution, why not start there? They have had ample opportunity to set their precedent elsewhere, before their lawsuit against Teachbook.

So what do you think?

Is Facebook within their rights, here, or are they going too far to protect their brand? Should they make an example of this itty bitty social network for teachers — or just bow down to the realities of their hugeness and take it as flattery? Perhaps this is just another example of Facebook’s quest to control the internet? Maybe Teachbook should have just started a Facebook group or Page and bought Facebook ad credits.

You tell us.