Facebook slips trademark for 'book' into user agreement

Facebook wants you to agree that it has the right to trademark the word "book." You already agree that it has trademarks to Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, and Wall.

Last week, Facebook announced it will once again be updating its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The company gave users a week to respond; the comment period closed this past Thursday, after thousands of Facebook users gave their feedback. One of the issues underlined is that the social networking giant has added a tidbit saying all Facebook users agree to the company's claims on the trademark of the word "book" in addition to other ones that have already been included before: Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall.

Curiously, the trademark claim for "32665" has been removed. If you're wondering, Ars Technica notes 32665 is the number that allows Facebook users to update their profiles via text message. Facebook has apparently decided it can't own the trademark for a number, but it can own the trademark for the word "book."

Here's the relevant excerpt from the old user agreement:

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.

Here's the equivalent part from the new agreement:

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.

Facebook has 73 active trademarks listed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including the letter "F," "Face," "FB," "Wall," "Facepile," and "Friendfeed." "Book" isn't one of them, but Facebook sure wants it to be.

The updated Statement of Rights and Obligations hasn't taken effect yet as Facebook is still going over the comments. Once it's been finalized, the update will affect all Facebook users: everyone who uses the social network has to be in accordance with its terms of service. Here are some of the other changes Facebook is planning to make:

  • Sharing Your Content and Information. Facebook says it has updated the language to be clearer and consistent with what has long been reflected in its Data Use Policy and its practices – that when you, or friends you have authorized to see your information, use an App, you are sharing your info with that App, which is what you consented to when you installed the App.
  • Safety. In this section, Facebook has changed the language from "hateful" content to "hate speech" because it thinks the term "hate speech" better captures its policy on prohibited content, which hasn't changed. This is also consistent with the company's new "Community Standards."
  • Special Provisions Applicable to Social Plugins. This section previously applied to Share Links, but those provisions also apply to the use of all Social Plugins. Facebook has thus replaced references to Share Links with Social Plugins.
  • Special Provisions Applicable to Software. Facebook says it wants to ensure its products, which may include downloadable products, are current. The company has added this section to give you notice that it may provide upgrades and updates to your downloaded products as they become available. Additionally, Facebook has included language that prohibits users from trying to extract protected source code from its products unless it has granted the user express permission.

You can view a 9-page document of the tracked changes (PDF). This document will likely change slightly between now and whenever Facebook addresses some of what its users have complained about.

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