Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

Has Facebook Trademarked the Word "Book"?

Faceteach

Teachbook is facing a lawsuit.


By Michael Stillman

Has Facebook co-opted the exclusive right to use the word "book" in a business name? To some extent, a lawsuit they recently filed against start-up website Teachbook may lead some to think so. Such a claim might be cause for concern among booksellers, since a large percentage of those in the book trade use the word "book" in their name! Will the Community Bookstore have to change its name to the Community Works-on-Paper Store, or the ghastly Community Electronic Readers Store? Fear not. Perhaps if former Pittsburgh Pirate pitching great Elroy Face decided to open a bookstore and called it Face Books he might hear from their corporate lawyers, but as long as you run a bookstore, you should be all right. Just don't try to convert it into a social networking site unless you're prepared to run up some astronomical legal fees.

The case involves start up Teachbook, intended to be an online community for teachers, apparently at one point indicating it would enable teachers to converse where schools blocked access to Facebook on their servers. Now it doesn't take a genius to imagine that the founders of Teachbook were making a play on the Facebook name. It is reminiscent of the Facebook name, which stands for a social community, while cleverly employing that part of the name, "book," associated with teaching ("Faceteach" would have been an awful name). There's little doubt that they were using the name for its familiarity value, just as any business that sticks an "R Us" after its name does.

Facebook seized on the obvious in its legal complaint stating "Teachbook.com LLC rides on the coattails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the FACEBOOK trademark, misappropriating the distinctive BOOK portion of Facebook's trademark. Defendant has created its own competing online networking community in a blatant attempt to become Facebook 'for Teachers.''' Just in case you weren't sufficiently enamored by Facebook, they inform us that "Facebook...is dedicated to making the web more social, personalized, smarter and relevant." Smarter? Kids don't read any more because they are too busy posting inane comments on Facebook. This lawsuit should be thrown out for perjury on its "face."

Actually, there is some reason behind all of the self-congratulations. What was traditionally required to win a trademark case, establishing confusion in the marketplace, is not clear in this case. Will people assume Teachbook is associated with Facebook? I wouldn't. However, Facebook's case may be stronger on its claim of "dilution." Dilution is a more recent legislated cause that allows for an action such as this even if people are not confused into thinking the new company is the same as the old. Dilution can arise when there is a "lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services," even if there is no deception, confusion among brands, or competition between them. This is a less demanding standard than showing actual confusion, and appears to us to be their best shot. However, for dilution, unlike traditional infringement, the holder must not only have a trademarked name, it must establish that its name is widely known in commerce. Hence, all of the self-congratulatory talk.

So, why shouldn't booksellers be afraid? The answer is that trying to trademark a term so generic as "book" is absurd. It can only be trademarked in a particular context. As Facebook states in its pleadings, "If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services.' That would dilute the distinctiveness of the FACEBOOK Marks..." In other words, if you use "CommunityBook" as your store name, or even for your bookselling website, Facebook isn't going to bother you. However, if you decide to start an online social community to discuss books and call it CommunityBook, you may hear from their lawyers. Call it something else.

Now for a final piece of data gleaned from their lawsuit. Facebook informs us that "users spend more than 700 billion minutes per month" on their site. That's 11.66 billion hours, or figuring an average worker makes $15/hour, $175 billion worth of time each month. Over the course of a year, that's over $2 trillion worth of wasted time. If people donated this time to the government instead of Facebook, we could eliminate the national deficit and save Social Security and Medicare. If we spent that time building windmills, instead of tilting at them, we could solve the energy crisis. If only... but of course we never will.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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