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So why did Facebook just trademark 'Face'?

Nilay Patel

Some hilarious overexcitement around the web today in response to the Trademark Office approving Facebook's application to register "Face" as a brand for online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards -- obviously, this is Zuckerberg's grand plan to prevent any and all use of the word "Face" by mere mortals ever again, right? Right?

Yes, you should all know better by now -- a quick look at the application history reveals what's really going on. The "Face" mark was originally applied for on December 1, 2005 by a UK company called CIS Internet Limited, which does business as (We're not making this up.) The original application covered everything from festival planning to dating services to text message systems, and around October of 2008 CIS filed to split the various categories up into separate applications -- one of which was for online chat rooms. That application was then immediately taken over by Facebook on November 7, and on November 17 Facebook officially swapped in its attorney. Two years later, here we are. That looks to us like Facebook's trademark team saw another social networking company go after the "Face" mark and decided to cut a deal to avoid any conflict in the future -- Facebook hasn't yet filed the Statement of Use required to actually register the mark, so it's not like they're doing much more than holding onto it right now. Plus, it'd be a pretty hard fight for Facebook to claim that any use of the word "Face" alone causes consumer confusion, so we don't see them starting a major legal offensive here.

In fact, if you really wanted to get worked up about Facebook trademark shenanigans, you'd ignore "Face" entirely -- it's much easier to point out that the company's actually registered "Wall," and has multiple overlapping applications for "Poke" and "Like," all of which seem like much more generic (and abusable) social-networking terms. But what fun would that be?

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