Timelines Explains Trademark Suit Against Facebook

Timelines.com is going public with its trademark battle against Facebook over the term “timelines,” which the social network is using to describe the new profiles it is rolling out.

In a long post titled “Why we are suing Facebook and a request for help,” the Chicago-based developer of historical web content cited its reasons for proceeding with its suit against Facebook.

Timelines.com filed its lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, September 29.

The company said it filed for the trademark for “Timelines” May 23, 2008, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted it Sept. 15, 2009. Facebook announced its timeline profile this past September 22, at its f8 developers conference.

Here’s the meatiest part of the Timelines.com post:

Our company owns a valid trademark on the term “Timelines” that is for a particular application, specifically for “providing a website that gives users the ability to create customized Web pages featuring user-defined information about historical, current and upcoming events.” We’ve spent years building this brand and using it in the above stated way on our site, Timelines.com.

Facebook — a company that has applied for or trademarked the terms “Face,” “Wall,” and “Like,” as well as sued others for using “Book” in their names — is using the name “Timeline” for a new product that is focused on how people express and share events and history online. Facebook either knew or should have known (given their rigorous defense of their own intellectual property) that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted us this trademark. People at Facebook could have at least contacted us for permission to use or license the name. They did not.

Let’s be clear: We aren’t against Facebook launching this new service. Our issue is that they’ve named and branded the service “Timeline.”

We are hoping that Facebook will realize that it made a mistake and that it needs to make things right. We’re very proud of the products and services we’ve built and cannot sit idly by and watch Facebook eliminate the goodwill we’ve developed. We will vigorously defend our trademark.

Ironically, Timelines.com urged supporters to follow developments in the case on, you guessed it, its Facebook page.

Speaking of the timeline, customized cover image site FirstCovers.com shared some news about the advanced profile’s rollout, or lack thereof, saying:

For those of you who do not want to manually switch to the new profile, you will have to wait for Facebook to slowly roll it out to you. Currently, there is no official release date. Facebook is still testing out the new profile with developers. Facebook does expect to release it to a larger testing group before the end of the year.

When the timeline profile does launch for wider testing, users will have the option to opt-in whenever they are ready. The release of the upgrade will not force all users to use the new profile until they are comfortable. Facebook wants to gradually release the profile — the launch will not be an automatic switch. It hopes to make the transition to the timeline profile as smooth as possible.

It’s possible that the legal dispute over the name timeline might have been caused the delay and Facebook might be using this extra time to refine the features in this advanced profile.

Whatever the specific cause might be, giving people more time to adjust to a new profile makes a lot of sense.

What kind of outcome do you think will result from the dispute over the name “timelines,” and how might that affect what the feature will look like once it goes live across the site?

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