Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Facebook v. Teachbook Trademark Infringement Case

By Joseph Mandour on October 7, 2011

California Trademark InfringementLos Angeles – Teachbook, a social networking website created for teachers, will not be allowed to dismiss a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by social networking giant Facebook, a federal judge ruled.

After Teachbook filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and submitted over 300 pages of exhibits, most of which were taken from Facebook’s website to support its argument, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Aspen declined to give judicial notice to Teachbook’s exhibits and denied the motion to dismiss. The judge noted that Facebook’s name-recognition was the major reason for denying Teachbook’s motion, and that it was undeniable that a likelihood of confusion could exist between the two websites.

The creators of Teachbook marketed their website for school-teachers to have access to a social networking site, where their profiles could only be viewed by other teachers and school administrators. Many school districts have enacted strict policies restricting their teachers from having profiles on Facebook and Myspace, since personal information from their profiles could eventually be viewed by students.

A statement from Teachbook’s argument said, “With Teachbook, you can manage your profile so that only other teachers and/or school administrators can see your personal information, blogs, posts, and so on. Teachbook is all about community, utility, and communication for teachers.”

However, attorneys for Facebook argued that Teachbook’s statements were a weak attempt to create a “substitute for Facebook,” claiming that the infringing networking site adopted the ‘Teachbook’ trademark with knowledge of, and the intent to call to mind and create a likelihood of confusion with regard to, and capitalize on the recognition and success of the ‘Facebook’ trademark. Facebook also argued that the use of the ‘Teachbook’ trademark, in conjunction with the substantially similar services Teachbook offers, dilutes the ‘Facebook’ trademark.

Unfortunately, for Teachbook, the judge agreed with the plaintiff, and claimed that the materials that Teachbook presented were inappropriate for the court to review at this point in the litigation. “Allowing Teachbook to cherry pick portions of Facebook’s website to introduce via a motion to dismiss simply because the complaint implicates the two websites would convert an examination of the complaint into a full-blown summary judgment analysis,” the judge wrote in his decision.

Judge Aspen concluded, “Given the ubiquity Facebook claims that its trademark has achieved, one could reasonably infer that the choice of the ‘Teachbook’ trademark – which, like the ‘Facebook’ trademark, is a curt, two-syllable conjunction of otherwise unremarkable words – to offer a similar service in the same medium was no accident.”

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