Facebook has moved a step closer toward trademarking the word "face" — at least in certain contexts.
The company's 2005 application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office received a "notice of allowance" Tuesday, which means Facebook now has six months to show that it uses the trademark and pay a $100 fee, said Cynthia Lynch, administrator for trademark policy and procedure at the agency. Or, it can file for an extension for up to 36 months. Once that's done, the trademark can be approved or rejected.
Even if it's approved, Facebook wouldn't have a trademark on "face" in every instance, only in online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for the "transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter," according to the Patent and Trademark Office's database entry on the application. It oddly exempts uses "primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars."
So another company could well use "face" in a different context — think Delta Air Lines and Delta Faucets, Lynch said.
Facebook sought to trademark the word in December 2005. Since then, no one has filed an opposition to the proposed trademark, Lynch said. Aaron Greenspan, a former Harvard student who owns a mobile payment system called FaceCash, asked for more time to oppose the application, but never filed any objection within the extended time period.
Greenspan is among the lesser-known Harvard students of Mark Zuckerberg's era to claim a role in inventing Facebook. His company, Think Computer, filed petitions in 2008 and 2009 to cancel Facebook's registration of the term "Facebook," which was approved by the trademark office a couple of years earlier. As part of a settlement with Facebook, Greenspan agreed last year to cancel its petitions.
Facebook, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., is also trying to rein in use of the other half of its name. In August, it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Teachbook.com, an online community for teachers.
The "face" trademark notice was reported earlier by several blogs, including Inside Facebook.