Twitter, Facebook, and Google are fighting over what constitutes a “true” trademark in court cases in an effort to gain a legal footing.
The fight has taken on a new dimension after a federal appeals court ruled that Facebook’s Facebook Spaces app infringed upon a company’s trademark in the words “Paradise Lost,” and that the use of the phrase “Parasite” was “likely to cause confusion among its users.”
In its order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the defense of a trademark owner in the case, noting that the plaintiffs had shown that the phrase was likely to cause consumers to believe Facebook owned the phrase.
“This finding is not without precedent in this context,” the court wrote in its order.
“In one case, a plaintiff was sued by a group of individuals who claimed that the word ‘Parasites’ in a television advertisement caused confusion among those viewing the advertisement.”
The appeals court added that “Paris Opera House,” “Parade of Champions,” and “Parades of Champions” are trademarks of Opera, which is owned by Facebook.
The company also owns the trademark for the words, “Parading,” “Theatre,” “Opera Cake,” and the “Seal of the Opera House.”
The case could have broader implications for the use and trademarks of software that are used by companies such as Google and Twitter, the court said.
The 9th Circuit’s decision in the Facebook Spaces case could also be used to bar a third party from registering a trademark for “Paraders,” the ruling said.
That third party could then attempt to use the trademark to sell products or services that are not a trademark.
Facebook declined to comment.
Google said it was “disappointed” with the decision and has a “deep concern” about how it would affect its products.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook declined to answer a question about the appeal in a brief filed Monday, but in a statement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We’re confident the district court correctly ruled that the marks were ‘likely to confuse’ the consumers who viewed the advertisement and the words ‘Paradises Lost’ were likely to have a ‘materially different meaning’ to those consumers.”
Google has already filed a motion to dismiss the trademark claim in the lawsuit, arguing that the trademark is invalid because it does not contain a claim of trademark infringement.