facebook-trademark-copyright-lawsuit

In an article published today, Mashable reports that Facebook is being sued for copyright infringement by a company called Timelines.

From the start the article doesn’t make sense. The journalist writes “Facebook was sued in 2011 for copyright infringement by Timelines, Inc (…) Facebook later counter-sued Timeslines, Inc., arguing Timelines, Inc.’s trademarks weren’t distinct enough to warrant protection and should be canceled.”

And a quick look at timelines.com confirms my suspicions that this case has nothing to do with copyright, as Facebook’s design is completely different to the accuser’s.

Instead, this appears to be a trademark infringement case, as Timelines is a registered TM evolving in the social media sphere. I found Timelines’ registered Trademark page on Trademarkia.com that asserts the TM on the word “Timelines’ 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; and application service provider, namely, managing web sites of others in the fields of historical, current and upcoming events”

While Timelines might have a case when it comes to infringement of their Trademark (which remains to be seen as the word “Timeline” is pretty generic – that’s FB’s counter-argument), we need to note two very important things:

Ideas can’t be protected by copyright

– Journalists working in tech publications should really know the difference between a copyright and a Trademark. Copyright protects the expression of creativity (so if Facebook had copied Timelines’ design there’d be a copyright case) whereas Trademark law protects a brand’s identity (name and logo mainly) within a certain geographical and industry context- we covered this briefly when awe received our own Myows Trademark.

It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds, and I hope Mashable gets their wording and facts right next time they cover the story in their Timeline.