Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Or something like that. And in this case, that’s good news for Facebook. A court in Illinois recently denied a motion to dismiss a trademark action that Facebook filed against Teachbook.com. So, what is Teachbook you ask? According to the lawsuit, it’s a social networking site targeted specifically at teachers. And, also according to the lawsuit, it has at different times, touted itself on its Web site as a place where teachers “can manage your profile so that only other teachers and/or school administrators can see your personal information, blogs, posts, and so on.” That of course frees teachers from “the danger that students might learn personal information about their teachers.” So, Teachbook sounds kind of like, um, Facebook for teachers. And that’s what caused the lawsuit. Facebook contends that Teachbook’s use of that name violates Facebook’s trademark, “with the intention of causing confusion with, and trading on the goodwill of, the Facebook marks.” In response, Teachbook argued that the term “book,” which is the part of the two terms that overlap, is a generic term that can’t be the subject of a trademark. And there is some truth to that. I can’t go trademark the term “lawyer” and prevent other lawyers in town from using that term in their advertising (and no, I don’t know that because I tried). The term is generic – it describes what I do. But Teachbook conveniently ignored a few key details. Like, for instance the rest of the word. And the fact that Facebook isn’t a “book.” The court essentially adopted Facebook’s argument that the inquiry needs to be on the entire mark, not specific parts. As the court noted: “And given the ubiquity Facebook claims its mark has achieved, one could reasonably infer that the choice of the TEACHBOOK mark—which, like the FACEBOOK mark, is a curt, two-syllable conjunction of otherwise unremarkable words—to offer a similar service in the same medium was no accident.” Ya think? We’ll see if the parties can hammer something out, but given this ruling, it is probably “back to the drawing board” for the Teachbook folks. I’m sure they’d appreciate any ideas for a new name if any readers have any.