Migraines For Mark: Facebook’s IP Issues

Late last month, the company formerly known as Facebook Inc, announced it will now be called Meta (Meta Platforms Inc). CEO and Chairman, Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebrand during the company’s annual ‘Connect’ conference. This is stated to be the first of many steps for the company to take charge of the “metaverse” – where we will see virtual interactions, online immersion and expansion across the internet. Zuckerberg has already begun investing millions into the project that apparently will bring what was only ever a sci-fi dream to reality.

However, after just one week, a roadblock has already arisen: trademarks and copyright issues.

Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, there is already a company called ‘Meta’ in the United States, who sell computers, laptops, tablets and software. They have been operating with the ‘Meta’ name for some time now and even lodged documents to register their trademark over the name in August this year.

We imagine this really “zucks” for Facebook, sorry….we mean ‘Meta’…

The founders of the small Arizona tech company, Joe Darger and Zack Shutt, have asked for a payment of $USD 20 million to withdraw their trademark application and allow Facebook to use it. There is still no news on whether a payment has been made, there has however been a few harmless memes tweeted by the tech company about the situation.

Some rumours are circulating that Facebook may have acquired legal rights to the name using perceivable trademark loopholes. One, for example, is filing the application in different country and using that application date to leverage filing in the US. However, we see instant problems with this approach.

Meme posted by Meta the Tech company

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds and whether we see a David and Goliath trademark story for the ages come from it.

Similarly, a Berlin-based migraine app called “M-sense Migräine” light-heartedly Zucker punched Facebook releasing a tweet stating “We are very honoured that @facebook felt inspired by the logo of our migraine app – maybe they’ll get inspired by our data privacy procedures as well”. No comment on the data aspect for now…

Although it does seem like Facebook copied their logo, M-sense Migräine will not be filing a lawsuit and state “We didn’t say they stole it – we said we feel honoured to have them inspired”. This could just be the tip of the iceBERG though…

Meme posted by M-Sense Migräne

Trademarks and copyrights can be tricky business. Especially when you are a small business. Any brand recognition, value and equity that you have acquired often with stringent budgets can be priceless. For it all to be taken away by a big corporate company with all the firepower and budget to match would be an absolute shame, not to mention a total waste of time, money and effort. Facebook could lose all their work on Meta if the existing Meta successfully blocks their use of the name – whereas if Facebook is successful on technical grounds, Meta could fade away in the background.

In light of the above, here are some general pointers to take away and can help you save the head and heart ache (and in most cases a hit to the piggy bank):

  • Never underestimate your product or service. Always assume you will become a globally recognised presence.
  • The time or money that seems relatively impossible now may save you mountains in avoided disputes or diverted business down the track.
  • Think very carefully about the competitors in your industry before relying too much on an unprotected image, logo, slogan, sound or otherwise.
  • Consider in depth the timing of any protective measures you may take and weigh up the risks/alternatives.
  • If your IP is worth protecting, keep a lookout in all relevant countries for potentially infringing use or competing applications.
  • If you become aware of potential infringement, or even competition you can take action about, don’t delay for a minute.
  • In some cases, the nature of your product or service means that there really is no point in spending time or money trying to protect your image or work. This may mean that copyright is sufficient to avoid trademark applications. On the other hand, it may mean that there simply is just no utility in making any applications for anything.
  • Get good legal advice at the outset and have the relevant searches undertaken before investing heavily in a name or logo.

We have a wealth of experience and knowledge around trademarks and copyrights and have worked with many small businesses and start-ups to help protect their property.

If you or someone you know needs help with a trademark or copyright contact our office to see where you stand.

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