Friday, August 27, 2010

privatizing the english language: when social networking gets too big for its britches

Or: Wherein F*c*book screws the pooch... again

In what I'm calling the "WTF of the Week", reports that F*c*book (you know who you are) has filed suit against a networking site for teachers and educators that goes by the name "Teachbook". The social maven of the internet claims that by adding "book" to any word the 2-employee, 20-member networking site is infringing on its trademark. Apparently half a billion subscribers isn't enough of a market share and 20 teachers in Northbrook, IL pose a grave threat to F*c*book's financial strength and stability. In it's report Chicago Breaking said
Facebook®, which was founded in 2004 and has more than 500 million users, filed its trademark infringement lawsuit in U.S. district court in San Jose last week, asserting that the "book" part of its name is "highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking websites."

"If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services'", Facebook® argued in the lawsuit. "That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook® Marks." (Ed: Emphasis on "stink"?)

Okay, first: Never mind that "generic category of individuals" has got to be the biggest oxymoron this side of the movie . How many people do you suppose would have even known about Teachbook if F*c*book hadn't stuck their collective headbook up their assbook? Apparently Mark Zuckerberg® subscribes to the theory that "any publicity is good publicity". Mark, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree. Based on comments left on the Chicago Breaking story, I'd guess that F*c*book just cost itself as many users as Teachbook has with this latest bit of boneheaded litigation. And that was only the reaction to one article. Hardly a representative sample, and there's no way of knowing how many of the commenters actually will terminate their accounts. But the cost in good will alone might make potential customers and advertisers think twice before getting in bed with them. I figure based on relative size, Teachbook has diluted the market by... about 0.000004% (20/500,000,000 * 100). Less than that if any of Teachbook's 20 or so users are also F*c*book users. Why the Wall Street analysts must be quaking in their Gucci's at the very idea of such a juggernaut. Three words: Get. F*c*ing. Real.

Second: According to there are no fewer than 42 words ending in "book", and I came up with a few of my own to add to the list. (I thought it interesting that "facebook" was nowhere in the list.) Of the 46 unique words my minutes of research uncovered, at least 32 of them can be turned into a "live" URL by adding ".com". (This excludes the ones that only take you to a basic link page that doesn't really belong to anyone). In an incredibly ironic twist, one of these is a professional networking site for lawyers and legal professionals. I can't help but wonder why F*c*book didn't try tangling with these guys. What a circus that'd be, yeah? go ahead Zuck... I double-dog dare ya.

And then I wonder what the good folks at Redbook or Quickbooks, or Apple Computer -- makers of the MacBook -- think of F*c*book infringing their trademarks? Surely they must have heard about this by now. I've actually seen with my own eyes cookbooks dating back to the 19th century. And I know that I had notebooks I took to school back in the 60's. Is Mead aware of this egregious assault on their financial viability? I've found my way around with guidebooks, and -- before the computer took over the task -- kept appointments in a datebook. I had a passbook (also known as a bankbook) and a checkbook from the bank, made entries in logbooks in the army, used matchbooks (without closing cover before striking even!) when my lighter gave out, and studied playbooks when I played sports. I've been on flights that were overbooked, been taught from textbooks and had it commemorated in yearbooks. I've sung Kumbaya around the campfire from a songbook and pasted news clippings and photos in scrapbooks. And my friend Georgianne, who owns the top-ranked Appaloosa in the country has pored over studbooks trying to decide if breeding her champion mare was too rich for her pocketbook. Perhaps a class-action suit is in order here?

Or maybe F*c*book just needs to get over itself.

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jams o donnell said...

What utter lackwits. I look forward to lawsuits against the paperback book.

With any luck Facebook will come out of this with as much credit as McVomit garnered after the McLibel Two, a famous case here in the UK during the 90s

Carver said...

This is totally bizarre. I don't get it at all. What's next, people can't use the world face in a name.

Mama Zen said...


tiff said...

Because F*cebook isn't ubiquitous enough...

Way to take 'em to task, man!

Bryan Bengel said...

Or, more accurately, maybe F*c*book should go F*c* itself! Am I right?

And by the way, you should check out the website If F*c*book really wanted to sue someone, it should be those guys, because they're actually allowing people to post excerpts of REAL F*c*book material on this website.

Fragrant Liar said...

Yes, Facebook is becoming F*ckbook. And you're right. They need to get over themselves before they lose credibility the way MySpace did.

Fireblossom said...

MZ is right. They are asshats.

Of course, we were too poor to be able to afford words at all. We just pantomimed "We can't pay" to our landlord, who used to kick us down the stairs.

magiceye said...

bigtime losers!