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Startup Seeks $20 Million to Let Facebook Use ‘Meta’ Trademark

Facebook Meta trademark dispute

Facebook has long been a force in the social media realm, but with its Meta rebranding, it hopes to become a major player in the metaverse. The metaverse is a shared online 3D virtual space in its infancy, and this move could put Mark Zuckerberg at the forefront of the technology. Before looking to the future, though, a Meta trademark dispute might get in the way.

Facebook’s Meta Trademark Dispute

When Facebook announced its rebranding to Meta, the focus was to better convey the company’s purpose. The Facebook company owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook (the social platform), but CEO Mark Zuckerberg felt the brand was too tightly linked to one product. This led to the rebrand, and now Meta is the parent company of Facebook and other properties.

Shortly after the announcement of the rebranding, though, an Arizona startup company claimed they already had rights to the meta trademark.  Meta PC is an LLC that filed a trademark application in August 2021, and its filing states they’ve used “Meta” in commerce since at least November 2020. The startup sells computers, keyboards, disk drives and other electronic devices.

The smaller company has taken to social media to joke about the situation. It was no laughing matter, however, when TMZ reported the business wanted $20 million from Facebook to use the name. While Meta PC has not yet been granted a trademark registration, its application certainly predates the application submitted on Oct. 28 by Facebook.

Does Meta PC Really Have Superior Rights?

While the trademark application submitted by Meta PC predates Zuckerberg’s application, there are some nuances that will certainly play a role. One of those issues is that the social media entrepreneur may have some rights to “Meta” through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative since 2018. Of course, this charitable organization would not fall into the same industry as Meta PC.

Differences in industry is where the big questions come into play. Two companies can have rights over the same trademark if consumers are not likely to be confused between the two uses. For instance, Uno the card game and Uno Pizzeria & Grill are not in conflict because there is no likelihood of confusion. No one would confuse a card game with a restaurant.

This may very well come into play in the Meta trademark dispute. Meta PC sells computer parts which is very different from what Facebooks’s company does. Even if the USPTO approves the trademark for Meta PC, there’s a chance that Meta (formerly Facebook) can also secure rights over the name for specific uses.

What Happens Next?

There’s no guarantee that Meta PC’s filing will receive trademark protection. While the founders declined to comment on the veracity of TMZ’s claim that they demanded $20 million from Facebook, their actions on social media indicate they’re confident in their position.

If one or more of the trademarks are denied by the trademark office, the metaverse/social media giant could decide to buy the name “Meta” from Meta PC and others if necessary.

There’s no denying that Meta PC and Meta exist in related industries, but this may not be enough to constitute trademark infringement. Until something official takes place — such as a trademark opposition — the rest of us can only sit back and watch this situation unfold.

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