Start-up site Teachbook.com has two employees and fewer than 40 users signed up for its free Web community. The site has yet to officially launch.
However, the Northbrook-based company, which provides tools for teachers to manage their classrooms and share lesson plans and other resources, has been thrust into the spotlight by social networking giant Facebook, which sued the local firm for using “book” in its name.
Court documents obtained by Wired.com, said that Facebook is suing the start-up, which has yet to launch, for “rid[ing] on the coattails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark”.
Facebook is understood to have filed the complaint in a Californian district court last Wednesday. The social network, which signed up its 500 millionth member last month, has also accused Teachbook of trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition.
Teachbook, an American-based web company, which is set to fully launch later this year, currently has 47 members. Greg Shrader, a managing partner at Teachbook, said: “At the end of the day, they’re just trying to bully us and we’re not going to roll over. We have every intention of filing an opposition in a month or so.”
He also said that Facebook’s filing struck him as “greedy. “We’re a two-person company – I don’t know how a multibillion-dollar site sees us as a threat”. Shrader added that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Teachbook’s company name in 2009, despite Facebook’s protests at that time.
Facebook, in its lawsuit, has accused the company of “creat[ing] its own competing online networking community in a blatant attempt to become Facebook ‘for teachers’”.
A Facebook spokesman told the Daily Telegraph (UK): “It’s not that they are using “book”. You’ll notice that we have no complaint against Kelly Blue Book or Green Apple Books or other [such sites].”
“However, there is already a well known online network of people with “book” in the brand name. Of course the Teachbook folks are free to create an online network for teachers or whomever they like, and we wish them well in that endeavour. What they are not free to do is trade on our name or dilute our brand while doing so,” he added.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has gone after small sites over the -book suffix. The travel site TripTrace – once called PlaceBook – detailed in a post how the social networking behemoth forced it to change its name.
“We didn’t believe anyone could own the word ‘book’ apart from ‘face,'” reads a post on TripTrace’s company blog. “We knew of a number of websites that had similar names that were clearly not copying Facebook: Cookbook, Blackbook, eBook, RunBook … Racebook, Casebook, Tastebook.”
But the site acquiesced to Facebook because, “as a start-up we were in no position to fight.” Still, TripTrace seems to have the last laugh. “We still think of ourselves as PlaceBook,” the post reads. “Or, if you chose to pronounce it differently so it doesn’t rhyme: PlacéBoök.” [via Daily Telegraph (UK), CNN’s Money and Wired]