Everyone’s Meta: Is Facebook’s Rebrand Putting the Company in Legal Hot Water?
Nov 6, 2021   •   Meryl Medel
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Nov 6, 2021   •   Meryl Medel
The rebrand of the social media giant owning the Facebook platform has drawn a lot of attention. Some netizens are excited for the dawn of this new era for the internet, while others not so much. Amid all these, the rebranded company now has to contend with trademark issues as different companies with identical names are turning up.
Before October ended, Mark Zuckerburg announced that Facebook will now be known as Meta Platforms, Inc. (or Meta for short, but for the sake of clarity in this article, we will be using the full name of the rebranded company).
Announcing @Meta — the Facebook company’s new name. Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection. pic.twitter.com/ywSJPLsCoD
— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021
Meta Platforms will be an overarching parent company housing the different social network brands that Facebook owns, which includes the Facebook app itself, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and more. The rebranding is also part of the company’s effort to make way for its metaverse.
According to Zuckerberg, he had been thinking about rebranding Facebook ever since he started expanding the company when he purchased Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014. But it was only six months ago that he decided to push through with his plans and formally began the rebranding project.
“I think that there was just a lot of confusion and awkwardness about having the company brand be also the brand of one of the social media apps,” he told The Verge. “I think it’s helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any specific one of the products, that can kind of supersede all of that.”
During the past weeks, Facebook has been embroiled in a corporate leak scandal that pointed to the company’s inadequate content moderation, leading the US Congress to investigate the matter thoroughly and drawing a barrage of criticism from all over the world.
Zuckerberg in March 2021 vs. The Facebook Papers pic.twitter.com/HQ9QAjUiQE
— The Recount (@therecount) October 26, 2021
While Zuckerberg referenced the controversy surrounding the leak during his announcement, the CEO told The Verge that this series of controversies “had nothing to bear on this. Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing. If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.”
A Chicago-based company called Meta Company released a statement on their website, where its founder Nate Skulic alleged that lawyers representing Facebook have been hounding them to sell their name. In the letter, Skulic claimed that they have repeatedly declined Facebook’s offer, since a “low offer that wouldn’t cover” the name change costs. Meta Company also wanted to know who was trying to buy their name and for what reason.
— Stanley Johnson (@BrandDNA) November 4, 2021
According to the public letter, it seems Meta Company was taken by surprise when Facebook announced its rebranding effort on October 28, when their lawyers “declared they would respect our existing right and registration” just eight days prior. Because of this, Meta Company decided to pursue legal actions against the social media giant.
The public letter has attracted attention, with some accusing Meta Platforms Inc of “bullying.” But others are also questioning how legitimate Meta Company is. Aside from the page hosting the public letter, there is no other website, and its social media accounts were only created in the last few weeks. There is also no information about what the business is (aside from the letter’s mention of a product to be launched).
Question: Who even are you and what do you do?
I do not want to defend Facebook but you look like a troll that appeared after facebooks announcement.
— Dekkia ☄️ (@Dekkia_) November 3, 2021
While not much is known about the company, a quick peek into whois.domaintools shows that the website meta.company has been a registered domain since March 18, 2014 with an expiry date on March 18, 2022. Similarly, the company name “METACOMPANY” is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office with serial number 87027182 filed on May 6, 2016 and officially registered on December 27, 2016. Still, many are not sure if the company is real.
Another identically named company, Meta, also caught the attention of the public. Meta is a Canadian company founded in 2009 specializing in scientific literature analysis. They own the meta.org domain, as well as the Twitter username @meta. In 2017, it was purchased by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), an organization awarding grants for scientific research founded by Zuckerburg and his wife Priscilla Chan. On the same day Facebook announced its new identity as Meta Platforms Inc, CZI announced that Meta will be shut down by March 31, 2022. According to CNET, CZI’s vice president of communications for science Jeff MacGregor said that Meta’s assets were being transferred to Facebook slash Meta Platforms, Inc.
In another part of the world, a German migraine app called M-sense is also facing a crisis. Their logo looks eerily similar to Meta Platforms’ new logo — except theirs is green.
We are very honoured that @facebook felt inspired by the logo of our migraine app – maybe they’ll get inspired by our data privacy procedures as well 👀 🤓
#dataprivacy #meta #facebook pic.twitter.com/QY7cota36r
— M-sense Migräne (@msense_app) October 29, 2021
Since Meta Platforms’ logo is now more well-known across the globe than the app’s, M-sense already feels defeated and would rather just redesign its logo. A lawsuit seems hopeless for them, as the similarity is not enough of a risk under trademark law, according to a specialist. Unfortunately, this logo redesign will still cost M-sense a penny, when they’ve been operating quietly in Germany with no issues until Facebook’s rebranding.
Yet another identically named company is here, but this time, they’re taking the arrival of Meta Platforms with a little more humor and a little less seriousness. Meta PCs, an Arizona-based company selling computers, laptops, tablets, and software, has been operating for more than a year under that name. According to TMZ, the company’s founders Joe Darger and Zack Shutt applied for the trademark on “Meta” just last August. This, unfortunately, coincided with the social media giant’s rebranding efforts to the same name.
— META PCs (@METAPCs) October 28, 2021
— META PCs (@METAPCs) October 28, 2021
But Meta PCs seem to be taking it all in good cheer. On the day of Facebook’s announcement, Meta PCs published several memes on the subject matter that definitely garnered them a lot of good attention, including an edit of Zuckerberg holding a Meta PC product and a video of Shutt joking about renaming their company to Facebook.
Still, business *is* business. So to avoid a lawsuit, the founders are asking for a payment of 20 million dollars for them to withdraw their trademark application and free up the ‘Meta’ name.
Things are not looking so good for Facebook — er, Meta Platforms. It seems that to secure their new name, the company will have to get through a lot of challenges. They’ve already succeeded in taking down some of these ‘obstacles’ (e.g. meta.org was already bought years ago, while M-sense will just be changing their logo), but others want to battle it out or make the most out of the situation.
Still, despite these challenges, Meta Platforms seems to remain what it has always been even before the name change. The Zuckerberg-led company may face a lot more obstacles in the future if it does not do anything to change its policies to protect its users around the globe. We’re just hoping they make those changes sooner rather than later.
What do you think of these controversies over the ‘Meta’ name?
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