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Facebook trademark dispute broadly instructive

Globally known companies are understandably -- and aggressively -- protective of the things that centrally identify them and influence consumers to buy their products.

Think for just a moment about world-known brands such as Walmart, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, the New York Yankees, Nike and so forth. Doesn't what most prominently identifies them -- that is, their trademark -- immediately come to mind when you focus upon them for even a split second?

Oh, yeah, let's add Facebook to the above list. Candidly, it would be unlikely for a 21st-century consumer -- especially one who is computer-savvy and into online social media sites -- to not instantly associate the company's ubiquitous thumbs-up icon with Facebook offerings.

Facebook executives are understandably not pleased by a start-up company from Brazil that copies their trademark and promotes similar services to online consumers. That company is marketing a product that features only uplifting information and that bans select words and content.

Facebook has responded by sending a cease-and-desist letter stating that the company is infringing its protected mark and creating confusion.

"Like any company, we have to protect our brand," says a Facebook official.

The Facebook matter brings up an interesting topic, namely, the standard employed in determining trademark infringement.

As noted in an online overview of that subject, what is paramount in a trademark case is a court's determination regarding whether a competing mark might reasonably create a likelihood of confusion in consumers' minds as to the mark's source.

We'll take a closer look at the standard and some of the factors that are centrally important in reaching a judicial conclusion about infringement in a given case in our next blog post.

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