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Facebook: we own the word “book”

March 28, 2012

From Threat Level:

Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word “book” by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook. […]

The newly revised user agreement reads as follows (emphasis ours):  “You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.”

“Book” is an unregistered trademark (it seems unlikely that the USPTO or EU will grant a trademark on “book”), but if you use Facebook, you supposedly have legally agreed to Facebook’s “Statement” terms and theoretically open yourself up to the possibility of civil litigation.

So, all you Facebook users, I hope you don’t talk about “books” anymore without prior written permission from Facebook.  To avoid accidentally using this forbidden and taboo word, it is best if you just read magazines – or, even better, just spend all your time on Facebook.  Who needs b**ks, anyway.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 9:50 am

    B**k is one thing. But in China there are also the complicated issues of “losing f*ce” 失面子and “saving f*ce” 留面子. So, whose “f*ce” 子 are we talking about? Who owns the f*ce of whom? 🙂

    Your post raises the question of international and of translation rights to branded names as well.

    Nonetheless, legalities aside, there are some purely linguistic issues of language variation here. China is a interesting example, where spoken and written varieties of “Chinese” make the question of ownership rather interesting.

    In China, officially, there’s no FB. Instead, several faces and books and facebooks are recognized by various phrases that are all would-be-owned-by-Facebook terms, I’m sure.

    To show this, here is a sentence on this very topic from Chinese wikipedians -with my formatting and a Google Translate translation following (with my line breaks, my bold font on words roughly meaning “face” and my underlining and italicizing of words meaning something like “book“):








    Because Facebookdoes not have the official Chinese name, the user community of the different Chinese regions will each develop a different translation.

    Such as the

    Mainland China

    Hong Kong
    face book or face book.

    face book

    face book

    And so on.

    N.B., In the English translation by GT, pasted and formatted above, the various phrases rendered "Facebook" and "face" "book" are written in Chinese with different characters all pronounced in different ways by different people in different places.

  2. Russ permalink
    March 28, 2012 11:23 am

    That’s hilarious. Well…back to my b**k.

  3. March 28, 2012 11:45 pm

    Kurk — the funny thing is that the Chinese government bans Facebook, and enforces the ban through the “Great Chinese Firewall.” I can barely resist making an inappropriate remark about euphemisms for words starting “f.”

    Russ — “back to my b**k” or “b**k to my b**k”?

  4. March 29, 2012 8:51 am

    Next up: Copyright war over “the”. It could be the cause of World War Three.

  5. March 29, 2012 8:43 pm

    Well, copyright is like trademark, in that one can have “unregistered trademarks” (like Facebook’s use of “face”) and “unregistered copyrights.” So, I’ll just go ahead and do my part to get WW3 off to a start:

    “the” (c) 2012, all rights reserved

    But since this is a translation blog (at least some of the time), let me link to a list of translations of those magic three words (“all rights reserved.”)

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