Facebook wants facial protection

Facebook has come a step closer to trademarking the word “Face” online. But the context appears narrower than the company hoped and it’s far from certain how many competitors it can crack down on.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice of allowance, which is effectively a ruling that the trademark is valid. The next step is largely a formality: Facebook has six months to file a statement confirming it intends to use the trademark, at which point it should officially be granted and take effect.

The application actually dates back to 2005, when it was made by British company Faceparty. In 2008 Facebook paid to take over the rights to the trademark if and when it was granted.

The trademark simply covers the word Face rather than a specific logo or image. However, it is restricted to use in:

Telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter

It’s notable that the categorization is so specific that it only affects direct rivals to the site. Had the trademark simply applied to “online” communication, there could have been a clash of the titans over Apple’s Facetime service. Indeed, one report notes there are already 34 trademark applications mentioning the word “face” in the more general online communications category.

The approval notice also specifically excludes any services ” primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars.” That likely means that an online company of that nature using the word “face” objected to the application, though nobody’s yet been able to spot it in USPTO records.

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