San Diego Trademark Attorney® Blog

Facebook Argues TIMELINES is a Generic Trademark, Rival Disagrees

March 11, 2013

facebook.jpgSan Diego - Timelines, Inc. argued in an opposition filed Wednesday that the company's TIMELINES trademark is not too generic to deserve protection and that Facebook, Inc.'s timeline feature on its popular networking site infringes the trademark.

The company filed the opposition in response to Facebook's motion for summary judgment requesting that the lawsuit be dismissed. The trademark infringement lawsuit began when Timelines sued Facebook one week after it learned the social media website had launched a new feature that allows users of the website to create virtual timelines with photos, videos, and other media devices.

As Timelines' website Timelines.com provides users a relatively similar online service, the company filed the lawsuit against Facebook alleging trademark infringement and claiming that Facebook's new feature would drive Timelines out of business.

In its motion for summary judgment, Facebook argued that though Timelines has three U.S. trademark registrations for the word TIMELINES in conjunction with software services provided over the internet, the term is generic and does not warrant protection. The January 31st motion claimed that since the term is defined as "an arrangement of events or other information in chronological order," and Timelines provides a service that allows users to record and connect events in a specific order, the trademark is merely descriptive of its services.

Timelines countered that genericness should be determined by a jury, rather than in a motion for summary judgment, due to the fact-intensive nature of the process. Timelines also countered Facebook's claims that the term's genericness is evidenced by its appearance in numerous dictionaries.

"Facebook forgets that its very name comes from the 'generic' name that was given to certain college picture books known as 'face books,'" Timelines said. "Moreover, Facebook's own trademark history demonstrates that it seeks trademark protection for terms that appear in dictionaries, including 14 trademark applications for the term 'like' alone, almost all of which concern Facebook's 'Like' button, which its users click on when they ... like something."

Timelines is seeking damages and a permanent injunction prohibiting Facebook from using TIMELINES or any similar version of the trademark. Facebook is requesting a declaratory judgment that the website's timeline feature does not infringe Timelines' trademarks in addition to cancellation of those trademarks.