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FriendFinder, Facebook in Legal Tussle Over FacebookOfSex

FriendFinder, Facebook in Legal Tussle Over FacebookOfSex
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Apr 15, 2011 10:15 AM PDT    Text size: 

SAN FRANCISCO — FriendFinder and its subsidiaries have been hit with an infringement claim by social network giant Facebook, which says the name of its Traffic Cat site, FacebookOfSex.com, is too similar to its own trademarked name.

In the suit filed Wednesday at U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Facebook says FacebookOfSex.com " is a blatant attempt ... to hijack Facebook's fame for illicit financial gain."

But FriendFinder, according to the suit, claims that it has problems with Facebook's use of the term "friend finder," which it also has trademarks for.

"[FriendFinder and its subsidiaries, including Traffic Cat and Various Inc.] have tried to use the purported 'FriendFinder' mark as leverage in negotiations, asserting that Facebook must address [FriendFinder's] concerns before they will address Facebook's trademark claims," Facebook attorneys say.

"Facebook's use of 'friend finder; amounts to descriptive fair use and does not infringe Various' purported trademark rights in the 'FriendFinder' term."

Facebook in the suit claims that FacebookOfSex.com provides nearly identical user services as its social network.

"But unlike Facebook, defendants permit and indeed encourage the display and posting of pornographic content," Facebook attorneys say. "Upon accessing the FacebookOfSex.com site, a visitor immediately encounters highly graphic and sexually explicit images and videos."

Facebook also complains in the suit that the launch of FacebookOfSex was a "calculated scheme to capitalize on the fame of Facebook's marks," particularly because they spread affiliate advertising material, including banner ads that drive traffic to FriendFinder sites.

"In their marketing material, defendants solicit affiliates to promote the FaceBookOfSex site by encouraging affiliates to 'be part of the crowd cashing in on the new and exciting cobrand," Facebook attorneys say.

The suit, which includes trademark dilution and cybersquatting claims among 11 claims,  seeks injunctive relief, revenue from the site and actual and punitive damages.

Facebook also wants the court to declare its rights in connection with its use of the words "friend finder," or deem those words have not  "acquired secondary meaning in the marketplace."

Marc Bell, FriendFinder's CEO, did not immediately respond to XBIZ for comment.

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