Not just Apple: Facebook may face trademark issues in China

In addition to all the various obstacles Facebook faces in China, the social networking giant could also have trademark issues in the country, just like Apple has discovered recently.

Two months ago, Apple lost its iPad trademark in China. Earlier this month, Apple was once again accused of iPad patent infringement in the world's most populous country. If Facebook isn't careful, the social networking giant may have similar problems in China, the world's biggest Internet market by number of users.

Facebook started trademark registration in China back in 2006. The company has already filed multiple applications related to the "Facebook" name, both in English and Chinese, according to the China Trademark Website. In the process, the company has discovered that some of them have already been taken, including the Chinese translation of "Facebook", by domestic users. "We are collecting evidence, hoping to reclaim these trademarks based on Facebook's popularity and social awareness," a Facebook spokesperson told

Even if it manages to secure all the trademarks it wants in China, the country will still be a serious challenge for Facebook. When Facebook filed for its $5 billion initial public offering (IPO) earlier this month, there were more than just numbers published by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In fact, China was mentioned nine times in the company's SEC filing.

Here are the relevant references:

  • We would also face competition from companies in China such as Renren, Sina, and Tencent in the event that we are able to access the market in China in the future.
  • For example, access to Facebook has been or is currently restricted in whole or in part in China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
  • For example, we continue to evaluate entering China. However, this market has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry into China to date.
  • In China, where Facebook access is restricted, we have near 0 percent penetration.
  • China is a large potential market for Facebook, but users are generally restricted from accessing Facebook from China. We do not know if we will be able to find an approach to managing content and information that will be acceptable to us and to the Chinese government. It is also possible that governments of one or more other countries may seek to censor content available on our website, restrict access, block our website, or impose other restrictions that may affect the accessibility of Facebook for an extended period of time or indefinitely.

In short, trademarks aren't the biggest issue for Facebook in China. The country's communist government is the real problem.

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