Facebook Now Believes It Owns the English Language, Too

Facebook, the data-mining and junk-software-marketing Internet behemoth, is suing a startup in Northbrook, Illinois, because the new company plans to use “-book” in its name, according to a Tribune report. The startup,, is meant to help teachers “share lesson plans and other resources,” and has “fewer than 20 users signed up.”

“If others could freely use ‘generic plus BOOK’ marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for ‘online community/networking services’ or ‘social networking services,’” Facebook argued in the lawsuit. “That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook Marks.”

The word “facebook” was the generic word for the photographic student directory at colleges including Harvard, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg came up with (or obtained) the idea for an online student directory and social network, which was the company’s original mission.

The word “book” dates back to the Old English “boc,” which entered the English language directly from the Indo-European proto-language. The root word originally referred to a beech tree; later taking the meaning of a “beech staff for carving runes on,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

The Tribune story was picked up by the New York Times’ business blog, Dealbook .

According to a database search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Facebook also holds a trademark on the word “like.”