Facebook dispute over Timeline trademark to go to jury trial

Facebook had asked the court for a summary judgement on the claims of plaintiff Timelines

A trademark infringement lawsuit against Facebook over its use of 'timeline' will go to trial before a jury, after a judge ruled that the company had failed to show that the trademark was generic or descriptive, or Facebook's use of it amounted to fair use.

Timelines, a website to collaboratively record and share history, filed a complaint against Facebook in September, 2011, and sought a restraining order to bar Facebook from offering its Timeline service, but this was denied, according to records of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

The company was set up in January, 2007 and launched its Timelines.com website in 2009. It owns U.S. federal trademark registration numbers for "Timelines," "Timelines.com" and for its "Timelines" design mark, according to court papers. It also operates a website called LifeSnapz.com and other services.

Facebook filed for a summary judgment on each of the claims of the plaintiff and on its own counterclaims, including cancellation of Timelines' registered marks, which was refused by the judge on Monday. The case is now set to proceed to trial before a jury on April 22.

Noting that the term 'timeline' has been used generically by other companies, District Judge John W. Darrah observed that Timelines.com had stated that there were differences in the way those companies used the term. The goods or services these companies offered were also software-based and not Web-based, the timelines are static, and products are mainly priced, unlike Timelines' own service.

Facebook admitted that it was aware of the plaintiff before announcing Facebook Timeline and had begun development of its Timeline feature as early as October 2010, for one because it believed that the term would help it in search engine optimization.

The company has, however, argued that the term 'timeline' is either a generic term or merely a descriptive term, without secondary meaning, when the name of the product or service becomes uniquely associated with the original seller. Facebook has also argued that it makes fair use of the term, and cannot be liable for infringement as a matter of law.

"Plaintiff had more than nominal sales and over one-thousand active users on its website, Timelines.com," the judge wrote in his order. "At this stage in the proceedings, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as to this group of users, 'timeline(s)' had acquired a specific meaning associated with Plaintiff."

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesTimelineslegalinternetFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?