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Facebook tightened trademark policy threatens Etsy sellers

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Facebook has a history of aggressively protecting its brand, taking legal action against everyone from Lamebook to Teachbook. Now the company is not only tightening its trademarks on words like “Face,” “Poke,” and “Wall,” but also adding a new one on the common word “Book.”

When Etsy sellers discussed Facebook’s latest assertion, many had a good laugh.

“For crying out loud, the whole English language will be trademarked soon. We'll have to communicate with crude drawings,” wrote Phanie.

Though some of the sellers are hyperbolizing the situation, the new development could significantly affect some of the products sold in the Etsy marketplace. A search for “Facebook” on Etsy brings up over 4,000 handmade crafts inspired by the social-networking site.

Now that Facebook is taking a heavier hand with its trademarks, sellers will have to be careful that their products couldn’t be confused with official Facebook items.

For example, while Facebook’s trademark obviously doesn’t prevent every instance of the letter “F” or the word “Like,” it could prevent users from selling cufflinks with the Facebook “F” on it or these “Like It” button earrings.

“Facebook” is such a popular craft genre on Etsy that the marketplace charges $1.72 every time a seller wants to advertise the keyword, making it one of the most costly keywords on the market. It’s unlikely that Facebook is getting a cut of that. (To read more about how Etsy sets keyword prices, check out our investigation on penis crafts, which cost a mere $0.60 per advertisement.)

The small-business excuse is unlikely to aid these sellers. TripTrace, known as Placebook before litigation, is one of dozens of small businesses Facebook has gone after, despite having a different audience and purpose than the latter.

While Etsy sellers are in agreement that Facebook is being “hilarious,” the company’s tightened trademark policy may not seem so funny further down the road. Facebook’s newly revised user agreement will give the company more authority in squashing out trademark violations, even if they are found on a trendy necklace or hand-painted bra.

Image by SceeneShoes