By Novell Zwange – When Facebook eventually surfaced after a wonder named Google, we all applauded the re-birth of a free digital world messiah, but alas it seems there were just small moments of brilliance. It is now time to pay our school fees. We now face a beast that wants to control the global cyberspace, and true we are now all under a real danger of losing all the dictionary words that were preserved for our daily use. These common words have been used freely, each and everyday, since time immemorial.
Facebook, the social networking platform which has about 18 million users in Africa could soon own the trademark for the word “Face” following a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the trademark on the word “face” when used in the context of online chat rooms or bulletin boards.
Facebook filed for this trademark in December 2005. The notice of allowance does not mean that Facebook has been granted the trademark just yet, but it’s getting really close. In the next three months, Facebook must pay a fee and file a statement of use, at which time it must prove that it is actively using the mark to provide goods or services, and then get the approval of an attorney.
The trademark covers the word face only in the context of “telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars,” the pending document reads. While the context in which the trademark can be enforced is quite narrow, it’s still scary to see Facebook owning a trademark for a term as general as “face.”
Facebook is also vigorously defending its rights over the other half of its name. In August, Facebook filed a suit against social network for teachers Teachbook.com in an attempt to protect the use of the word “book” pertaining to an online networking service.
After “Book”, “Like”, “Join”, “Comment”, “Share” and “Poke” are also in jeopardy. Facebook previously bullied location-based service providers Placebook to change their name, who ultimately to change their name.
Facebook has also tried to trademark other words. It has at least 15 trademark applications around the “like” buttons it launched in April, some of which cover the word “like” itself.
The social network tends to be more aggressive with its trademarks than its patents, which it has implied it acquires mostly for defensive purposes. The company is currently embroiled in a dispute with parody site Lamebook, which takes user-generated screenshots of off-color interactions on the social network. It also sued social network aggregator Power.com for trademark infringement last year.
Below are some reactions from some of the Facebook users across the world;
“Ridiculous, but if they succeed, then Apple should be handed the rights to the letter ‘i’.” – T.B
“Well I guess if a company like Monsanto can trademark a seed and therefore life, and companies like Facebook can start filing for patents on common everyday words, soon we won’t be able to be born without someone owning our life and we won’t be to speak without paying someone to use the very words we’re using to communicate. Interesting world wer live in…” – E.G
“bad idea…if they’ll make “face”as their registered trademark…then surely i’ll apply for “book”…apple will apply for “i”..yahoo for “y!” twitter for “@”, opera for O, firefox for “fx” and google for g..” – R.D.R
“It’s a standard dictionary word. I wouldn’t be allowed to register it and neither should anybody else, regardless of their size. It shouldn’t be allowed.” – R.M
“They’re a bit stupid when it comes down to trademarking names… Just keep the trademark “Facebook” and “fb” and get rid of the rest! Don’t think about trademarking Face it’s a waste of money to be using a word that was already their before mark created Facebook. Like have they ever heard someone call Face referring to Facebook? I don’t think so. They should put a law on words in the dictionary so normal words like face can’t be trademarked and only unique words can be trademarked!” – A.Y.M.A
so basically all i need to do is call my site face-sumthing to be instantly famous?