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Lamebook v. Facebook: Parody or Infringement?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 11, 2010 11:52 AM

Here is a new spin on the whole "do something wrong to someone, demand an pology from them" theme noted in a FindLaw Free Enterprise post. In that case, a magazine editor who lifted content from a blogger without permission asserted the blogger should just be grateful her name was mentioned at all. In this case, a new site has come to bedevil the great overlord of social media: Facebook. Their nemesis? Lamebook. What does this have to do with the unwarranted apology? It's coming.

Facebook, as would any other company with a valuable trademark to protect, threatened to sue Lamebook, for fairly obvious reasons, notes The Wall Street Journal. Lamebook's response? They sued Facebook, for threatening to sue them. Lamebook is seeking a ruling from a federal judge in Austin, Texas, saying that they are not infringing on Facebook's trademark and would the social media behemoth please go away and leave them to their nice little parody, protected of course, by the First Amendment.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told The Journal that the two companies had been in discussions when Lamebook upped and sued. Or, in Noyes' more measured terms, "We're disappointed that after months of working with Lamebook they have turned to litigation."

In Lamebook's opinion, they are a parody of Facebook and thus not infringing on Facebook's intellectual property. Facebook sees it a bit differently. Not only is Lamebook causing the kind of confusion among the public that trademarks hope to prevent, but Lamebook doesn't even rise to the level of parody. Not to put too fine a point on it, but their parody argument is just, well, lame.

As noted in the extensively researched letter from Facebook counsel, posted by LegalPad, a true, protected parody has to comment or criticize the thing it is parodying. Facebook's stance is that Lamebook may be making fun of Facebook users, but not Facebook itself, so it is not a true parody. A sound legal argument, but one that is asking for trouble.

What will happen to Lamebook? Perhaps only a judge in Texas knows. Perhaps, like one other company based on a parody of a well recognized brand, they will settle and live to fight another day. Lamebook might want to get in touch with a little company known as The South Butt.

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