IP: There's no papering over this dispute

Three-party wrangle over use of “paper”: Who gets to hit print on the trademark?

Reverse confusion. Bullying. Potentially large damages. Bad faith. The dispute brewing over the PAPER trademark invokes all the relatively rare theories that trademark lawyers love to obsess over. The big question: Who will win and why?

In one corner is Facebook, which just announced its much anticipated news-reader application, PAPER. Facebook's new app uses a Flipboard-like interface for viewing content, including articles from well-known publications, in the user's Facebook timeline.

In the case of Facebook's PAPER, FiftyThree’s CEO explained it clearly: People now believe FiftyThree Inc. is associated with Facebook. The confusion over the app names has already led to questions about FiftyThree's status as well as the future of their Paper app. People have begun asking FiftyThree if it has a licensing deal with Facebook or has been purchased by it.

Interestingly, FiftyThree appears to have also jumped on the recent trademark bullying bandwagon. The USPTO has defined “trademark bullying” as the practice of a trademark holder's using litigation tactics in an attempt to enforce its trademark rights beyond a reasonable interpretation of the scope of those rights. That's not exactly what FiftyThree has been insinuating about Facebook’s response to FiftyThree’s request that Facebook change its app’s name, but it is pretty similar.

Contributing Author

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Scott Slavick

Scott Slavick is a shareholder at Brinks Gilson & Lione, where his practice focuses primarily on trademark prosecution and trademark litigation. Scott maintains all aspects...

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