Facebook Loses Motion, Faces Likely Trial Over Timelines Trademark

law-legal-conceptRecall that there was a small photo-centric site out of Chicago run by former ShopLocal executives. That site called/calls itself Timelines (plural). It obtained federal trademark registration for its name. Then, Facebook came along and used that term for its, well, Timeline.

Timelines has a number of other photo-oriented sites and apps such as Photogram.

Timelines the company offered to sell itself or the trademark to Facebook but the latter declined. The smaller company felt that it was only a matter of time before it would simply go out of business because its name and brand were now associated with a much larger and more well-known entity.


A trademark lawsuit ensued (so to speak) in 2011. Today, Facebook’s motion for summary judgment (to end the case) was denied by an Illinois federal judge. The case will now enter another round of settlement talks in anticipation of a trial next month.

There’s no formal judicial opinion yet (order denying motion for summary judgment), so we don’t know the rationale for the judge’s decision. A win at this point doesn’t guarantee Timeliness a win at trial, however. All this ruling argues is that there’s an “issue of material fact” for the judge or jury to decide at trial based on the evidence.

Facebook could always appeal this ruling and drag out the case. But, it probably just makes more sense to settle and buy the trademark (and/or the company’s assets) for a few million bucks.

Postscript: Bloomberg confirms that Facebook will face a trademark infringement trail over the Timelines name:

Facebook “has failed to demonstrate, as a matter of law, that the marks are generic,” U.S. 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 said Timelines had “more than nominal” sales and more than a thousand active users. A jury trial is set for April 22.

We’ll see if Facebook wants to “roll the dice” at trial and face a local jury (read: David vs. Goliath) or offer to settle the case before trial.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Facebook: Business Issues | Facebook: Legal | Legal: Copyright & Trademark


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

Marketing Day:

Get the top marketing stories daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!