Earlier this month, Timelines.com filed a lawsuit claiming Facebook's new Timeline feature may "eliminate" the Chicago-based company. The small website has decided to provide more details about its lawsuit by posting a public cry for help over at timelines.com/trademark.
As I've already written in the past, Timelines.com has a trademark for the "timeline" name, filed in May 2008 and granted in January 2009. Trademark law states brands can prevent others from using their name if there is a possibility that consumers will be confused, as long as the names are in the same field or industry. Facebook meanwhile is arguing that the word "timeline" is generic.
The trademark is for "providing a web site that gives users the ability to create customized web pages featuring user-defined information about historical, current and upcoming events." The company says it has "spent years building this brand and using it in the above stated way on our site Timelines.com."
Timelines.com also argues Facebook either knew or should have known that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had granted the trademark, and notes Facebook did not contact it for permission to use or license the name. The company insists that it only has a problem with the name:
Let's be clear: we aren't against Facebook launching this new service. Our issue is that they've named and branded the service "Timeline". We are hoping that Facebook will realize that it made a mistake and that it needs to make things right. We're very proud of the products and services we've built and cannot sit idly by and watch Facebook eliminate the goodwill we've developed. We will vigorously defend our trademark.
In fact, Timelines.com is perfectly happy to keep using Facebook to promote its website and even the lawsuit:
How you can help
If you believe a small company has as much right as a big company to defend its intellectual property, then we are asking for your help in spreading the word about our cause:
Thank you for your support as we defend our trademark – we really appreciate it!
—The Timelines Team
In the original complaint, Timelines.com pointed out that Facebook was redirecting users from the Timelines.com Facebook Page at facebook.com/timelines to Facebook's own Timeline webpage at facebook.com/about/timeline. The social networking giant has since stopped doing this.
Palo Alto will likely find a way to convince Chicago that the trademark is not valid in this case, or will just strike some kind of settlement deal. As commenters on my previous articles have noted, Facebook has enough money to just buy Timelines.com outright, if it comes to that.