Online Company Sues To Stop New Facebook Feature

By Joseph Mandour on October 1, 2011

California Trademark InfringementLos Angeles – Timelines.com, a Chicago based digital scrapbooking site, recently filed suit against Facebook alleging that the social networking giant’s new user interface includes a timeline feature that infringes upon trademarks owned by Timelines.com. Timelines.com alleges that Facebook is redirecting users away from Timelines.com’s Facebook page and onto a page created by Facebook discussing the new Facebook feature. Timelines.com also alleges that it owns trademarks involving certain uses of the word ‘timeline’ and that the new Facebook feature will be infringing upon those trademarks once launched.

Founded in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is the world’s most used social networking site. Facebook currently caters to 800 million users internationally. As of April 2010, an estimated 41% of the US population had a Facebook account.

Facebook has recently launched an entirely new user interface. One of the features it plans to unveil as a part of its new interface package is the Facebook Timeline. The Timeline feature would replace users’ profile pages and allow users to create an interactive timeline of their lives using photos, status updates, music, and videos. The Facebook Timeline will also incorporate more product offerings and marketing than the current ad banners on user profiles.

Timelines.com seeks to stop Facebook before it unveils the new feature, which Timelines alleges could eliminate Timelines.com or bury the company in a sea of customer confusion. Timelines.com is pursuing, along with damages, a temporary injunction designed to stay the release of the Facebook Timeline feature until the case is litigated.

The purpose of a temporary injunction is to maintain the status quo and ensure that the parties are not irreparably harmed by another’s actions until a judicial determination is made. In order to obtain a temporary injunction in federal court, a plaintiff must demonstrate that there is a probability that plaintiff has a right to the remedy sought and that plaintiff is likely to be imminently and irreparably harmed if an injunction is not issued. A plaintiff is irreparably harmed if legal remedies such as damages are insufficient.

In this case, Timelines.com is alleging that the launch of the Facebook Timeline feature would destroy its ability to market its digital scrapbooking service. Simply alleging lost profits would be insufficient to warrant an injunction. On the other hand, if the court finds that the launch of Facebook’s Timeline feature would cause permanent and irreparable harm to Timelines.com’s “Timeline” and “Timelines.com” trademarks, the injunction may be granted.

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