Facebook in Timeline Court Battle

Facebook and a company called Timelines are battling for the right to use the word ‘Timeline’.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched the Timeline in 2011. Photo: Niall Kennedy/Flickr

Back in 2011, Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the Timeline, which was created to provide users with the possibility to record their life stories on the website.

Yesterday the social networking giant lost a bid to end a trademark-infringement lawsuit over its use of “timeline” and related terms, The Telegraph reports.

Using his own profile to demonstrate the new timeline, Mr Zuckerberg showed photos of himself as a baby which he has inserted into the new profile page which is organised by years.

“You can use your cover to express a unique moment in your life, something you’re interested in,” he said at the time.

“You have complete control of your timeline,” Facebook CEO continued. “You can control what’s on there and you can control who sees what’s on there,” much like current wall posts, which can be shared with all friends, the public or specific friends’ lists.”

“The biggest challenge that we had designing Timeline was figuring out a way to tell all the important stories of your life on a single page,” Zuckerberg explained. “It summarizes the past for you but allows you to add important moments in your timeline as well.”

Timelines launched its website four years ago. It allows users to create chronologies tracing historical events such as wars, sporting events and advances in science.

The site creators filed a lawsuit against Facebook for infringement and unfair competition in September 2011, a week after the social-network unveiled the unique “timeline” feature. The feature has since become the default for all users.

The network counter-sued, insisting that Timelines’ registered marks were not distinctive to warrant protection and asking for judgments of non-infringement and a cancellation of the registrations.

Announcing the raft of changes at f8, Facebook’s annual developers conference in San Francisco, Zuckerberg said: “Millions of people curate stories of their lives on Facebook every day and have no way to share them once.”

“They fall off your profile page… we have been working on ‘timeline’ all year…it’s the story of your life and completely new way to express yourself. It has three pieces: all your stories, your apps and a new way to express who you are,” he added.

In the subsequent lawsuit, however, the network “has failed to demonstrate, as a matter of law, that the marks are generic,” US District Judge John W Darrah in Chicago wrote in a ruling today.

“At this stage in the proceedings, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as to this group of users, ‘timeline(s)’ has acquired a specific meaning associated with plaintiff.”

The judge went on, adding that Timelines had “more than nominal” sales and more than a thousand active users. A jury trial was set for April 22.

“We’re happy with the ruling,” Douglas Albritton, an attorney for Chicago-based Timelines, said in a phone interview. His client is seeking damages equivalent to Facebook’s timeline-derived ad revenue, he said.

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