Timelines.com, a company that enables people collaboratively record, discover and share history, filed a trademark lawsuit, set to go on trial at the end of April this year. The company owns trademark rights to the name ‘timeline’ and has asked Facebook to stop using the name timeline for their, well…, timeline. According to Timelines.com, Facebook’s use of timeline to describe its new profile would seriously cripple its business.
Facebook simply responded that the term is generic, and can be used by anybody.
It’s always a difficult question whether generic terms, that are associated with one company because of its massive use, can automatically – after registration – be claimed as trademarks. Of course they can. It’s called secondary meaning. There are many examples of (rather) generic/descriptive term becoming trademarks: e.g. Windows, iPhone, Singapore Airlines and Ugg. But there are some borderline cases as well: now it’s ‘timeline’, but how about ‘like’ of ‘poke’?
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