Facebook sues start-up for using 'book' in name

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Facebook is suing start-up site Teachbook.com for using the word "book" in its name, according to court documents.

The complaint, filed in a California district court last Wednesday, alleges that Teachbook is "rid[ing] on the coattails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark," said the document obtained by Wired.com.

Facebook, based in Palo Alto, throws a slew of accusations at Teachbook, including federal trademark dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Teachbook, based in Illinois, isn't launching until fall 2010 and many of the site's links are dead. Shrader said it is a "teacher's community" where users can share lesson plans and seek advice from fellow educators.

"[Teachbook] has created its own competing online networking community in a blatant attempt to become Facebook 'for teachers,'" the suit alleges.

"At the end of the day, they're just trying to bully us and we're not going to roll over," said Greg Shrader, a managing partner at Teachbook. "We have every intention of filing an opposition in a month or so."

Shrader said he applied to trademark Teachbook's name in 2009, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it found "no similar marks" on record. But before the government could make its final ruling, Shrader said, Facebook filed its opposition and sued Teachbook.

The court filing also claims Teachbook has marketed itself as an alternative to Facebook. It alleges a page on Teachbook's site -- which has since been removed -- once read, "Many schools forbid their teachers to maintain Facebook and MySpace accounts ... With Teachbook, you can manage your profile."

Facebook recently hit the 500 million member mark. By contrast, Teachbook's site said 47 members were online Thursday morning.

A rep for Facebook said the company doesn't claim to own rights to the word "book," as it has no complaint with titles like Kelley Blue Book.

"However, there is already a well-known online service with 'book' in the brand name that helps people connect and share," the Facebook rep said in an email.

Shrader said Facebook's filing "strikes me as greedy. We're a two-person company -- I don't know how a multibillion-dollar site sees us as a threat."

This isn't the first time Facebook has gone after small sites over the -book suffix. The travel site TripTrace -- once called PlaceBook -- detailed in a post how the social networking behemoth forced it to change its name.

"We didn't believe anyone could own the word 'book' apart from 'face,'" reads a post on TripTrace's company blog. "We knew of a number of websites that had similar names that were clearly not copying Facebook: Cookbook, Blackbook, eBook, RunBook ... Racebook, Casebook, Tastebook."

But the site acquiesced to Facebook because, "as a start-up we were in no position to fight." Still, TripTrace seems to have the last laugh.

"We still think of ourselves as PlaceBook," the post reads. "Or, if you chose to pronounce it differently so it doesn't rhyme: PlacéBoök." To top of page

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