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Facebook settles lawsuit over timeline trademark

Massachusetts business owners may be interested in the outcome of a recent trademark infringement case involving Facebook. According to Facebook's latest SEC filing, the social-networking company has settled a case with a Chicago-based company Timelines, Inc. over Facebook's use of the word "timeline" to describe its historical archive. Timelines was founded by former ShopLocal executives to be a photo-centric website.

The founders of Timelines trademarked the term before Facebook started to use it. After Facebook introduced the singular version of the term, Timelines offered to sell itself or the trademark to Facebook. After Facebook declined the offer, Timelines initiated business litigation. In April, Facebook unsuccessfully filed a motion for summary judgement to have the case dismissed.

Plaintiffs typically won't seriously consider a settlement until they've at least tried for a motion for summary judgement. After Facebook lost its bid to have the case thrown out, they may have decided that a settlement to purchase or permanently license the trademark would be less costly than a trial in Chicago, the hometown of Timelines. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, although Facebook described the settlement in its SEC filing as a sum that is "not material" to its business. However, given Facebook's size, a "not material" sum could still be millions of dollars.

All businesses have a right to protect their intellectual property. Collateral like names, brands, logos and product designs contribute to a company's competitive advantage and overall value. The unlawful use of those properties can have a significant adverse effect on the company's bottom line. An experienced business attorney could help businesses protect their intellectual property through patents, trademarks, copyright and even litigation, if necessary.

Source: Marketing Land, "Facebook Settles Litigation Over ?????????Timelines????????? Trademark", Greg Sterling, May 03, 2013

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