San Diego – A California federal judge has thrown out a trademark infringement case filed by social networking site Facebook against Teachbook.com because the alleged infringement did not occur in California. Teachbook.com, an online community for school teachers, does not accept users from California and therefore does no business in the state.
Facebook’s complaint accuses Teachbook.com of violating its trademark rights and demanded that the Teachbook site remove the “book” suffix from its name. The social networking giant accused Teachbook.com of “intentionally adopting an infringing trademark for use on social networking services that directly compete with Facebook.”
Teachbook responded to the August 2010 complaint with a motion to dismiss or request that the case be moved to an Illinois court, near its home office. The general rule in litigation is that a plaintiff must sue a defendant where the defendant resides. Facebook, a Palo Alto, Ca-based company, believes that it is reasonable for the case to be heard in California despite the general rule because that is where it suffered the injuries from the alleged infringement. Luckily for Teachbook.com, U.S. District Judge Ron Whyte didn’t agree with Facebook’s reasoning. The judge insisted that Teachbook.com went out of its way to avoid doing business in California and went as far as banning any California residents from joining its site. Teachbook claims that its reason for not doing business in California was to avoid the state’s strict anti-SPAM laws, which was enough evidence for the judge to dismiss the case.
Interestingly enough, if the case had been heard in California, it appears that the judge believed that Facebook could prove a likelihood of confusion between the two trademarks. In statements from the dismissal, the judge wrote, “Teachbook, somewhat implausibly, insists that it did not intend to trade on Facebook’s mark, and that it selected the TEACHBOOK mark in 2009 because of the connection between teachers and books.” The judge also wrote that Facebook had initially showed evidence that Teachbook’s trademark was confusingly similar to Facebook and that it would cause harm to it. Our first impression is that Facebook has an uphill battle proving that consumers will be confused between the two trademarks.
A spokesperson for Facebook commented that it would likely re-file the case.