It is a fact that the name “Facebook” became radioactive because the company all kinds from Badly things (Facebook denies doing some bad things and deeply regrets others.) Facebook probably figured this out too and so didn’t surprise anyone when changed its name on Meta last year, with the official line being that it wanted to reflect its bet on virtual reality and the metaverse. Unfortunately, there was already a small company called Meta that didn’t want to be associated with Facebook’s harsh reputation.
Meta.is, and small company which claims to have been operating in the immersive and experiential tech space since 2010, sued Facebook in federal court in New York on Tuesday. for supposedly disrupting small business trademark rights to the name “Meta”. (To avoid confusion, we’ll refer to the smaller company as “Meta.is” and the larger one as “Facebook” in this article.)
The company is seeking a permanent injunction preventing Facebook from using the name “Meta” and an undisclosed amount of damages. He claims Facebook deliberately robbed their entire business and lied to their face about it. In addition, it is no longer possible to conduct business using the name “Meta,” Meta.is claims, because customers believe its products and services come from “toxic” Facebook.
Meta.is claims that Facebook ignored federally registered trademarks.one of which he applied in January 2016 and was granted in May 2020, while Another he applied in January 2016 and was granted in May 2017. In addition, a small company stated that it would be almostimpossible for Facebook for claim they were unaware of the existence of another company called Meta.
According to Meta.is, in 2017 a Facebook executive attended one of its immersive events and wrote to J.B. Bolognino, founder and CEO of Meta.is, saying that the two should collaborate on future work. The lawsuit alleges that the two companies ended up working together.
After Facebook adopted the name “Meta” in October 2021, Meta.is says it contacted the big tech giant and told him about the alleged violation. In response, Facebook reportedly told Meta.is that both companies offer “completely different products and services.” According to the lawsuit, Facebook said that Meta.is offers a “multi-sensory live experience”. Meanwhile, Facebook was just a “social technology company”.
However, Meta.is claims that Facebook is doing exactly what it says it hasn’t done, creating the same immersive experience as Meta.is at the same events and in the same places. The smaller company says Facebook even works with the same creators and companies.
“Meta was suppressed by Facebook’s blatant, illegal behavior,” Meta.is’ lawsuit says. “Meta can no longer provide META products and services because consumers may mistakenly believe that Meta’s products and services come from Facebook and that Meta is associated with toxicity that is intrinsically linked to Facebook.”
Gizmodo reached out to Facebook for comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday morning but had not received a response as of press time.
Rebecca Tushnet, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard Law School, told Gizmodo via email that the complaint only reveals one side of the story, but that the allegations made by Meta.is are “really a concern.” However, that doesn’t mean Meta.is will beat Facebook, she said.
Tushnet indicated that Meta.is is basing some of its legal arguments on reverse confusion theory. It happens when customers believe that goods and services offered by a new market player (in this case, Facebook) are the true source of those services, when in fact they are offered by an older player (in this case, Meta.is). While Meta.is claims this is a classic case of reverse confusion, Tushnet says it is not, for several reasons.
“First, reverse confusion is usually not available as a theory if you have a very “descriptive” estimate, and to the extent that “meta” is understood as shorthand for the metaverse, it seems to be quite descriptive,” the professor explained. “The basic idea is that the first person to use, say, “Boston Taxi” for a service offering taxis in Boston should not be able to prevent others from using those words to sell the same, unless they are very, very well… known. And the reverse confusion theory is that the plaintiff is not so well known.
In addition, Tushnet said that Meta.is does not provide a clear indication of how many people are using “meta” in the same space for similar purposes. In the case of a “crowded” market, protection of any trademark is usually less, she said..
Meta.is arguably also blew a hole in its own arguments by calling itself well-known in its industry. Tushnet says that if this is the case, then influencers and artists are unlikely to be confused by the names.
A lawsuit with such complexities can take years, but predicting what will happen is not easy.
“Ithe judge is convinced that FB/Meta is a bully who profits from the weak, and if the plaintiff requires a quick injunction, then the judge can issue an early ruling, which would give FB/Meta a big incentive to settle,” she said.
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