Facebook Countersuit: 'Timeline' Is A Generic Term

By David Cohen Comment

Facebook is looking to land a counterpunch against Timelines.com, responding to the digital scrapbooking company’s claim that it owns the trademark to the word “timeline” by filing a countersuit and seeking to strip the trademark on the grounds that the word is generic.

We find that ironic coming from a company that has filed for a trademark on the word “face,” in reference to facial recognition software.

According to paidContent, there are five categories of trademarks, and timeline falls under the weakest one, which covers generic and descriptive terms. Courts have the authority to scrap trademarks in that category.

Facebook’s filing seeks to establish that timeline belongs in that category, and paidContent reported that the social network cited the descriptive word’s use on ten other websites, including Google.

The suit by Timelines.com claims that the smaller company would be wiped out due to confusion created by the launch of Facebook’s timeline profile:

Facebook — a company that has applied for or trademarked the terms “Face,” “Wall,” and “Like,” as well as sued others for using “Book” in their names — is using the name “timeline” for a new product that is focused on how people express and share events and history online. Facebook either knew or should have known (given their rigorous defense of their own intellectual property) that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted us this trademark. People at Facebook could have at least contacted us for permission to use or license the name. They did not.

If Facebook expands its launch of timeline into the U.S. and then receives an unfavorable court ruling, the company may have to change the new profile’s name, which would be costly for it and developers, the countersuit says.

Readers: Do you think Timelines.com has a valid case, or do you think Facebook is correct in calling “timeline” a generic, descriptive term?