Did Facebook Fraudulently Obtain A Trademark?

A long-distance calling company called Talkbook has filed a legal challenge against Facebook for alleged fraud in the way the social network trademarked its own name.

A long-distance calling company called Talkbook has filed a legal challenge against Facebook for alleged fraud in the way the social network trademarked its own name.

Talkbook submitted a “petition for cancellation” to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Appeal Board saying it’s fraudulent that the social network originally sought a trademark on “The Facebook,” and later filed an amendment to drop “The” from the name.

The phone app company also disputes Facebook’s claims of first commercial use of its name in reference to features the social network supposedly had in use at the time the trademark was filed, February 2, 2004.

Talkbook argues that in 2004, many of these features weren’t available on the site — things like electronic publishing, classified ads, video sharing, instant messages,advertising, online databases and even social networking.

I’m no lawyer, but it looks like Talkbook would have done well to cut off its argument after “The Facebook” spiel. Challenging whether the social network had commercial use of key features in February 2004 is just pushing things too far.

I hadn’t even heard of Talkbook until encountering this trademark challenge, but the filing looks like an attempt to pre-empt a trademark infringement lawsuit that Facebook will probably file anyway. Surely the social network’s deeper pockets, and corresponding stronger legal might make it the likelier winner of any courtroom battle.

It remains to be seen whether a pre-emptive challenge filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Appeals Board, rather than a courtroom, might steer the eventual outcome of a legal battle between Talkbook and Facebook in a different direction than past cases have gone. Personally, I’m betting that the bigger player will win here.

Readers, what do you think about Talkbook’s challenge to Facebook’s trademark?