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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

About Face

Official seal of the USPTOUnbelievable as it may seem, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have sent the Facebook offices a Notice of Allowance, effectively awarding then the trademark of the word ‘Face’.

Am I alone in thinking that this is a preposterous decision?

While it is true that the use of the "face" trademark comes with strings attached, it seems patently absurd (pun intended) to grant rights over a common term such as this.  The company must pay the issue fee within three months and their terms of usage covers:

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.”

Why the "cars" exclusion you may well ask? 

I wish I could provide an answer but clearly the motor vehicle industry in the USA carries a lot of clout.

Facebook is not alone in attempting to trademark common names. Anything with the word "pod" in it has attracted Apple's attention, as far back as 2006.

In March 2004, Donald Trump tried to officially register “You’re fired”, his catchphrase from then television programme, The Apprentice. The USPTO claimed that it was too similar to other trademarked property and his application was declined.

Some have succeeded. The boxing announcer Michael Buffer has become known for his phrase “Let’s get ready to rumble!” and since his trademarking of the phrase, has reportedly reaped a massive $400 million over the years through its use in various media.

Now all Facebook needs to do is file a Statement of Use and they are the proud 'owners' of "face".

What happens with the word's existing usage in other parts of the online world?  Ken Santema points out that:

" The term face is already used in the software industry, in the context of GUI's and skin's ..... this would be a sub-sect of the software industry wouldn't it? "

A wit commented on the Techcrunch coverage of this decision:

 "Let's Face™ it, this is ridiculous. "

I cannot help but agree.
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