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Facebook to defend its ‘Timeline’ feature in court
Social media giant Facebook will appear in court to defend its Timeline feature against claims of trade mark infringement.
Timelines Inc, the creators of the timelines.com website, claim that Facebook has infringed its trade mark. The Timelines website was designed as a collaborative space to share and record historical and emerging events.
The timelines.com website was launched in 2009 and although it only has a small number of users, it did register a number of US trade marks, including TIMELINES and timelines.com. It sued Facebook in 2011, following the launch of Facebook’s ‘timeline’ feature in October 2010.
Facebook tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that the term ‘timeline’ is a descriptive and generic term, but was unsuccessful. The case is due to go before a jury on 22 April 2013.
Lessons for Australian brand owners
Ensure that your trade marks are registered and registered early. Getting the earliest filing date is important to cement your rights. With just over 1,000 users, Timelines Inc probably wouldn’t have any cause of action against Facebook baed on reputation only – having registered trade marks is what has enabled them to pursue their claim (whether they’ll be successful is another question).
It’s not just business or company names and logos that serve as trade marks. The name of a product or service can also be considered a trade mark. So, it’s a good idea to conduct trade mark searches for the names of new products or service features before you launch them.
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