Facebook Stomps on Us…

Damn.

Maybe I was being naïve, but I thought I could convince the lawyers at Facebook that our site was totally impossible to confuse with theirs, that our market was different, that our use of the name was distinctive and completely appropriate, and that someone reasonable there would say: “You’re right, sorry we over-reacted…” and we could keep using our name. I thought that since I had good friends who were friends with these attorneys that we’d all just be a bunch of well-meaning buddies talking about how to get ourselves to a place of comfort.

This did not happen.

They were certainly nice enough. But they were politely intractable. The term they used was “non-starter” and they didn’t even want to meet with me unless I agreed to change the domain for the website and not bring that point up again; they weren’t going to talk to me about whether we could keep the name, but only the details of the transition. In otherwords, I was going to surrender, the only point of conversation was the terms of the surrender.

Crap.

I didn’t really surrender. But I did decide not to fight. On the lighter side: some of my friends never liked the name. Fine. We will come up with something better…

POSTSCRIPT 8/20: I’ve added our little intellectual property tale of woe to our blog. If you’re into this kind of thing, it’s the backstory… [PlaceBook]

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24 Responses to Facebook Stomps on Us…

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  5. Bruce Hawtin says:

    This seems wrong.

    I am the CEO of a small internet start-up with “book” as the suffix. After reading your blog I am contemplating changing the name. Even though the site, which should launch mid September, has no social networking features. I certainly do not have the budget to even investigate the ligitimacyof fighting a company like Facebook.

    Any thoughts?

    • Rubin says:

      It really depends on what your company does. If you had a bricks n’ mortar retail store, i’d say don’t worry about it. If you have a website that is totally non social, you might be okay, but one never knows – it depends on your name a little. If you want to avoid this entirely, just change your name. I’m obligated to suggest you consult a professional…

      or just ask in public…. I’ll have an opinion as will many…

  6. Wow, I think you were an idiot to give up Placebook.com – that’s a GREAT name for a travel site to book your flights, etc.

    Facebook wouldn’t have won. You gave into persuasion from a team of people, not attorneys, I know that. You just saw how big Facebook was and didn’t think you’d have a chance in the justice system huh? Say you lost, you would have had 45 days to appeal. You could have got major exposure and support by having the media cover it too. Facebook is trying to monopolize a dictionary word, which is illegal (you can’t trademark BOOK).

    • Rubin says:

      I agree that it’s a great name for what we’re delivering; most legal advice is that it would have been a debate among lawyers, not a slam dunk that we’d prevail. But regardless, as a start-up we have very limited resources and attention and my job is to keep us focused on the big picture – the fact is that we will succeed or fail based on our product, not our name at this point. It was a judgment call. But it was increasingly distracting.

      Anyway, we still own http://www.placebook.com (and http://www.placebook.it), and while we changed our name, we made no agreement with Facebook. If it makes you feel better, I just postponed the problem until a later point when we’re funded and people love our website.
      Thanks for your input….

      • Jake says:

        I’m with Justice McCay. Don’t give up your dreams, your ideas (and i emphasize ‘your’), or your company’s goals because some big shot comes into town. The greatest of people in this world had balls. facebook had balls when they needed them and it drove their company to success. This legal ‘battle’ may give you more positive exposure than you could pay for.

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  9. leebyy says:

    I say engage the Winklevoss twins to join you in your fight to keep your name. They fought Zuck and walked with 65 million. I would assume that if facebook wants the domain they will pay you for it and pay a lot, otherwise they are just bullying you and I would believe any judge would throw that case out.

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  20. klarsen1839 says:

    I personally like TripTrace much better. It was such nice alliteration and seems much more memorable to me than Placebook.

    I am sorry, however, that you had to go through all that hassle.

  21. klarsen1839 says:

    I personally like the name TripTrace much better. It has such great alliteration and is much more memorable in my opinion. And as a designer myself, let me just say that I love your logo.

    I am sorry that you had to go through that awful mess though.

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