Facebook at 10: Smart, But Still Not Doing Its Legal Due Diligence


What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a cease and desist letter?

Facebook, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary today, is taking the time to look back on its past but also make some important moves for its future. The decade-old social media site, which may or may not be losing some of its luster with the younger crowd, served up millions of personalized “look back” videos that captured some of users’ most-liked statuses, photos and life events over the course of their time on the network. 

With over 1 billion users across the world and a $150 billion valuation, it’s safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg, when he was just a Harvard sophmore trying to connect his classmates, didn’t expect “the Facebook” to turn into a fraction of what it is today.[more]

So while Facebook expands its reach and builds out its ad products, it is also experimenting with ventures beyond Facebook.com, the most recent of which is Paper, a mobile app that presents users with different kinds of content in a hyper-visual format. 

“It capitalises on the emerging trend that the immersive experience of content is just as important as the content itself (as also demonstrated recently by Jelly),” The Verge points out

Paper leverages full-screen, bolder images and a timeline with a Flipboard-like interface, with mosaic-style posts along the bottom. “Unlike other Facebook mobile efforts such as Messenger and the failed Snapchat knockoff Poke,” Time notes, Paper “isn’t a specialized tool or a side project. It’s Facebook—almost all of it, anyhow—rethought for a small screen, with 2014 aesthetics.”

Indeed, Paper presents a new opportunity for individuals and brands to engage and absorb content in different ways and by avoiding implementing too much change on Facebook, where in the past, the company has faced backlash over redesigns and new features. But, as Time notes, “it’s hard to imagine that Mark Zuckerberg & Co. don’t see the ideas in this app as a first rough draft of Facebook’s future, period.”

The problem is, Paper is already someone’s present. 

The other Paper app, by mobile startup firm FiftyThree, is a productivity app that allows users to put their ideas down on “paper” and share them with others. The app was named Apple’s Best App of the Year in 2012, and has been home to more than 100 million “ideas” that users have shared. 

In a blog post, CEO George Petschnigg expressed the company’s surprise when it heard that Facebook was releasing an app of the same name without their knowledge. “Was this the same Paper? Nope. Had FiftyThree been acquired? Definitely not. Then, what’s going on?” he wrote. The company said it contacted Facebook about the discrepancy, to which they apologized—but nothing else. 

Petschnigg notes that Paper has been trademarked in the US and several countries abroad, but Facebook is so far undeterred. “We have, in writing, asked Facebook to refrain from using the name,” he said, “But their response was that they apologized for not letting us know sooner, but as it stands, they are continuing with their launch.”

With Facebook’s official release of Paper on Monday, it doesn’t look like the brand is pumping the breaks. “There’s a simple fix here,” Petschnigg says. “We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story.”

We’d like to point out that rock and scissors are still free for the taking, guys.