Much of the discussion around Facebook’s changes in policy have revolved around privacy. But a recent revision to the company’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities has people talking about Facebook’s inclusion of a term designed to protect its trademark rights in the word “book.”
Jon Brodkin over at ars technica breaks it down nicely:
So, what exactly is Facebook changing? If you view the current Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, you’ll find this sentence:
“You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.”
If you’re wondering, 32665 is the number allowing Facebook users to update their pages through text message. The newly revised user agreement reads as follows (emphasis ours):
“You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.”
Not accepting the terms isn’t really an option for anyone with a Facebook account. “By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement,” the document says.
This isn’t the first time the company has asserted rights in the word “book.” There have been disputes (involving “Teachbook” and “Lamebook,” among others), but the move to include “book” among marks protected in its new terms is seen as newsworthy because “book” is not among the company’s extensive list of marks registered by the USPTO.
According to the ars technica piece, “Facebook has a pending trademark application on ‘book’ listed in the European Union’s trademark database, but the current status is ‘application opposed’ with ‘likelihood of confusion’ listed as the reason for opposition.”
Most readers of this blog already know that you don’t need to have a registered mark in order to have enforceable trademark rights in the United States. And by incorporating this mark into its user terms, Facebook (potentially, depending on what a court would say) is adding breach of contract claims to its menu of options in enforcing its trademark rights. And when you have, oh, 845 million or so contracts out there, well, that can’t hurt either.