In October 2021, Facebook announced that it was changing the name of their company to “Meta”. Conflicts have already started to pop up around the brand name.
It’s hard to imagine Facebook just assumed that a reasonably common four-letter word was fully available and nobody was using it in connection with related goods or services. Did they fail to do their due diligence, or do they just not care?
The key issue at the moment, in the U.S. at least, is the prior pending United States Patent and Trademark Office trademark application for META for “Computers, laptops and portable computers, tablets, computer peripherals, servers, networking equipment, software, computer components, namely, ram, disk drives, namely, hard and optical disk drives, and all related accessories, namely, keyboards, mice, wireless keyboards and mice, speakers, external hard drive backup devices, wireless air cards, wireless routers, monitors, chairs”.
That application was filed on August 23, 2021, and the application claims that the mark META was in use in commerce in connection with those goods at least as early as November 1, 2020, long before there was any public discussion of Facebook’s plans to change their name.
The owner of the prior META application is META PC, LLC, an Arizona-based company. At least they have a good sense of humor about this issue, as evidenced by this tweet:
— META PCs (@METAPCs) October 28, 2021
The plot thickened on November 8. Someone (we don’t know who at this point, feel free to speculate though!) filed a Letter of Protest with the Deputy Commissioner for Trademarks. The Deputy Commissioner then passed along to the Examining Attorney assigned to the META trademark application a statement to the effect that the Arizona company’s META application may be in conflict with yet another prior trademark filing: thisregistration for META. for “Downloadable computer software for capturing and storing screen data for the purpose of pattern recognition and machine learning”.
Someone’s playing hardball.
If the whole rationale for Facebook’s name change was to freshen up and rehabilitate the company’s image (aka “a reflection of how much Facebook had evolved“), why walk into a fight with a small computer manufacturer? They could have just worked something out with them on the sly beforehand, using NDAs and a big wad of cash to keep it hush-hush.
Sometimes a rebrand is the right move for a company, large or small, but do your trademark due diligence before you select a new name. If you have questions about the availability of a trademark or brand name, feel free to contact me.