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February 04, 2014

Facebook and FiftyThree Battle over Rights to the Brand Name "Paper"

On Monday, social media giant Facebook launched a new app designed to allow users to browse their news feeds with even greater ease. The app provides a unique and creative way to browse through Facebook pages without losing your place and prevent unwanted topics from bombarding your news feed, but their originality is questioned when it comes to the name of the app. The app is called “Paper,” but a quick search on Google reveals that the name is already taken.

FiftyThree is an app developer with far fewer resources than a conglomerate the size of Facebook, yet they have already developed an app called Paper, which allows users to sketch works of art with their iPad or iPhone. FiftyThree has held a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on the name “Paper by FiftyThree” since May 11, 2012. Due to this, FiftyThree politely requested that Facebook come up with another name for their new app.

However, considering the fact that the project launched on Monday without any change in name, it is clear that Facebook does not wish to uphold this request. “We have, in writing, asked Facebook to refrain from using the name,” says George Petschnigg, co-founder and chief executive of FiftyThree, “We were really surprised when we heard that Facebook was releasing an app called paper... their response was that they apologized for not letting us know sooner, but as it stands, they are continuing with their launch.”

This may seem somewhat hypocritical for Facebook, considering past threats to sue companies that use the word “book” in their logos. Facebook may try to evade the issue by pointing out the fact that both apps perform very different functions: one creates art, while the other navigates social media. However, FiftyThree is smart enough to know that having the same name is guaranteed to cause confusion for customers looking for the right apps, and will likely dwarf FiftyThree's product in recognition.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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