SOUNDS FAMILIAR: INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK TACKLE TRADEMARKS WITH SIMILAR NAMES

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It’s often said that familiarity breeds contempt, but in the social media realm, familiar-sounding names are breeding trademark battles.

Social media giants Instagram LLC and Facebook Inc. have been aggressive this year in trying to prevent other companies from diluting or profiting from their marks by registering similar-sounding names.

Since January, Instagram LLC has filed trademark oppositions or extensions of time to oppose 48 applications for trademarks containing either “Insta” or “Gram.”  According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's website, 16 of those applications have since been abandoned.

Facebook Inc. has filed oppositions or extensions of time to oppose 37 applications since the beginning of 2015 for marks consisting of either “Face” or “Book.”  Six of those applications have been abandoned so far.

The applied-for marks include PAINTAGRAM, INSTACAST, INSTACART, ADGRAM, LINKEDBOOK, DESIGNBOOK, PAYBOOK and FACEBOOTH — to name just a few.

This is not a new strategy for either company, both of which have been filing oppositions for years. Facebook started in 2007, and Instagram, in 2012.  

And their aggressive tactics are starting to get some pushback.

Last year, a company interested in creating a pet-themed social networking site filed a complaint against Facebook for allegedly engaging in the practice of “trademark bullying.”  The company — Facepets.com LLC — voluntarily dismissed itself from the case a few months after filing.

Facebook and Instagram aren’t alone. Pinterest, the image-sharing website, has filed oppositions to seven marks this year containing the word “Pin.” Twitter has filed just one — to stop the TWEETSTORM mark in its tracks.

It remains to be seen whether the social networks succeed in preventing the allegedly confusingly similar marks from being registered — and whether applicants keep trying.