Facebook settles Timelines trademark suit

Facebook and Timelines Inc. have reached a settlement in the trademark case against the social network, according to a document Facebook filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Timelines Inc. operates Timelines.com, a website for people to create and collaborate on historical timelines. The company sued Facebook in September 2011 after it debuted an overhauled profile page it called “timeline.” Timelines Inc. has registered trademarks for “Timelines,” “Timelines.com” and its “Timelines” logo.

Facebook had asserted that its use of “timeline” was generic and qualified as “fair use.” Facebook requested a summary judgment to prevent the case from going to trial, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the motion. The case was set to go to trial last week, but then delayed without explanation.

It seems the companies worked out a settlement agreement in the meantime. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, apart from the following in Facebook’s 10-Q quarterly report:

“We are also party to various legal proceedings and claims which arise in the ordinary course of business. Among these legal matters, in two cases, Summit 6 LLC v. Research in Motion Corporation et al., and Timelines, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., we have reached agreements to settle the matters. The cost of settlement in each case, which is included in the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2013, was not material to our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”

Through the lawsuit, Timelines Inc. sought to prevent Facebook from continuing to use the term and to receive compensation equivalent to Facebook’s ad revenue generated on Timeline pages. However, it is unlikely the settlement was close to that range. It also seems Facebook will be allowed to continue to use the “timeline” name for its profile product.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment. We’ve reached out to Timelines Inc. for comment, but have not yet gotten a reply.

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