Facebook Sued for Trademark Infringement of “TIMELINES” Mark

Timelines, Inc., has filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois against Facebook, seeking to enjoin the launch of its new product, which it has marketed under the name “Timeline.” Plaintiff Timelines owns three federally registered trademarks on which it bases its suit: “TIMELINES” (Reg. No. 3,684,074); “TIMELINES.COM” (Reg. No. 3,764,134) and a graphic depiction of the word TIMELINES (Reg. No. 3,784,720). Each of these trademarks has been registered in Class 42 for: “Providing a web site that gives users the ability to create customized web pages featuring user-defined information about historical, current and upcoming events; and application service provider, namely, managing web sites of others in the fields of historical, current and upcoming events.” (Emphasis added).

In its Complaint, Plaintiff Timelines alleges that around September 23, 2011, it learned that Facebook was planning to launch a service called Timeline – and make it available as early as October 1 – which is described at https://www.facebook.com/about/timeline. (ECF No. 1, Complaint, ¶ 8; Pacer access required to access this document). (The link to Facebook’s explanation of its new Timeline product was active when I checked it this afternoon, but perhaps it will disappear (or be “inaccessible”) during the pendency of the lawsuit – particularly if a temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued.) Plaintiff Timelines alleges that “this service is identical or nearly identical to what Timeline offers” (id.), that Facebook knew it was causing confusion (id. ¶ 9) and that Facebook has now disabled access to Plaintiff Timelines’ own Facebook page (id. ¶ 10).

For context, Plaintiff Timelines explains that its own website has averaged approximately 97,000 visitors per month in 2011 and that it has “invested several million dollars into its business and has taken swift action to protect its Marks.” (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27).

Plaintiff Timelines alleges trademark infringement (§ 1114) based on likelihood of confusion deriving from a false implication of sponsorship or affiliation, and willful infringement, all resulting in claimed immediate and irreparable harm, leaving Timelines without an adequate remedy at law. (Id. ¶¶ 33-39). It also alleges false designation of origin (§ 1125), which it claims will improperly suggest a relationship between Timelines and Facebook and “destroy the source-identifying function and goodwill that Timelines has cultivated in its TIMELINES marks.” (Id. ¶ 43). Again, Timelines makes a claim of willful infringement on this second count. Timelines also seeks relief under state consumer fraud laws and the uniform deceptive trade practices act. (Id. ¶¶ 48-59).

Plaintiff Timelines seeks temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent Facebook from using TIMELINE or TIMELINES or anything confusingly similar as well as money damages and “any other relief the Court deems just.” (Id. ¶ 12). It seeks attorneys’ fees, court costs, compensatory damages, exemplary damages, Facebook’s profits, treble damages based on the willful infringement claim, and punitive damages pursuant to the consumer fraud claims. (Id. Prayer for Relief). It also seeks publication of corrective advertising and a written accounting by Facebook within thirty days of the entry of the order detailing the “manner and form” in which Facebook complied with the order.

There may be a typo in the Complaint – in the Prayer for Relief, Timelines requests “That Facebook recover its costs of court” – which makes no sense, so they must have meant to request “That Timelines recover its costs of court.” (Id. at page 11).

Plaintiff Timelines also filed its motion for TRO today, along with a memo of law in support. ECF Nos. 7 & 8, Civil Action No. 11-6867 (N.D. Ill.) (Pacer access required to access these documents). In its motion for TRO, it specifically requests that Facebook be prevented from using these trademarks, from launching the service using these trademarks, and be required to distribute corrective advertising to dispel the “false and misleading impression” caused by Facebook’s promotional materials to date. ECF No. 7. (In other words, it only seeks a TRO to prevent further damage caused by Facebook’s alleged actions – any monetary damage claims will be handled at a later point in this case.)

Counsel for Plaintiff Timelines are Douglas Alan Albritton and James Terrence Hultquist, of Reed Smith LLP, in Chicago. The case has been assigned to the Honorable John W. Darrah and Magistrate Judge the Honorable Nan R. Nolan. No appearance has yet been entered on Facebook’s behalf.