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What's in a name? Shagbook takes on the mighty Facebook

A British minnow takes on the American shark. After all, says Shagbook, we're not even in the same business and Facebook itself says so.

Facebook claims use of the name "Shagbook" is a violation of the social-network's trademark.

Shagbook has responded with a so-called "answer in opposition" the United States Patent and Trademark office . The British firm admits in its filing that that one definition of 'shag' is 'to have sexual intercourse with'," but says that there's nothing wrong with attaching" shag" to the word "book". The term "facebook", says Shagbook, is generic, and was used long before Zuckerberg adopted it for for his social network. The filing states "Because the term 'facebook' was used by many parties descriptively and generically well before [Facebook]'s date of first use of the term . . .the term is generic and incapable of trademark protection under the laws of the United States." The website theRegister.co.uk quotes the entry in the American Heritage Dictionary: "facebook: directory listing names and headshots, by 1983, originally U.S. college students, from face (n.) + book." The social networking Web site dates from more than 20 year later - 2004. Shagbook's filing says Facebook is being heavy-handed and its "opposition should be denied under the equitable doctrine of unclean hands." The American social networkers, say the Brits, have "engaged in trademark misuse and trademark bullying by abusively using oppositions, litigation, and threats of the same to maintain a competitive market advantage." In addition, Shagbook argues that it's unreasonable to confuse their website with Facebook and they use the social network's own marketing to make that case. "[Facebook] has at times made public statements that its website at facebook.com is not a dating site and in fact has removed individuals from the site upon discovering that said individuals had been using the site as a 'dating site' to meet new people for sexual encounters," they write. "Thus, [Facebook] should be stopped from arguing that it provides services that are the same as or related to the services provided by [Shagbook]."

Staff Writer

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