Facebook branded a 'bully' by legal target Teachbook

A small social networking start-up designed specifically for teachers has provoked the ire of Facebook’s legal attack dogs this week, not because it’s a potential rival (yeah, right) but because it uses the word ‘book’ in its title.

Facebook’s complaint, which was filed on Wednesday in a California district court and obtained soon thereafter by Wired, claims the as-yet unfinished Teachbook service is guilty of riding “on the coattails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark.”

Unlikely to win any shiny gold stars from those within the teaching community for its aggression, Facebook has also thrown the chalky board duster at Teachbook on the grounds of federal trademark dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The people behind Teachbook, which has been created to specifically enable teachers to share lesson plans and connect with fellow members of the teaching community, say they won’t be intimidated and fully intend to launch a challenge against Facebook’s claims.

“At the end of the day, [Facebook is] just trying to bully us and we’re not going to roll over,” Teachbook managing partner Greg Shrader told Wired.

While Schrader is keen to point out that the Patent and Trademark office approved the Teachbook trademark application in 2009 – regardless of Facebook’s protestations at the time – Facebook is also targeting the service based on how it functions, not just its name.

Specifically, a Facebook representative has said, “there is already a well-known online service with ‘book’ in the brand name that helps people connect and share.”

Although Illinois-based Teachbook is puffing out its chest and refusing to budge, regardless of Facebook’s threats, its chances of launching in the autumn without changing its name look slim, especially given prior attempts by other similar-sounding platforms.

For example, travel site PlaceBook was recently strong-armed by Facebook because of its sound-a-like brand name. The company chose to back down from a potentially destructive legal battle with the Internet behemoth and instead protected its existence by changing its name to TripTrace.

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