On Nov. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, Lamebook LLC filed a complaint for declaratory judgment naming Facebook Inc. as a defendant. In the complaint in Lamebook LLC v. Facebook Inc., the plaintiff seeks a declaration that the operation and maintenance of its website, lamebook.com, and the use of the term lamebook do not infringe, dilute or otherwise violate the trademark rights of Facebook. Lamebook.com is a website started by two graphic designers in April 2009 as “a parody website that highlights the funny, absurd, and often ‘lame’ content that gets posted on the Facebook website,” according to the complaint. Conor Civins, an associate with Bracewell & Giuliani in Austin, represents Lamebook. He says his client filed the complaint because Facebook lawyers have been objecting since March to the use of the Lamebook name as an infringement of their client’s trademark. In a letter dated July 1, 2010, filed as an exhibit attached to Lamebook’s complaint, Kathleen E. Johnston, an associate with San Francisco’s Cooley, representing Facebook, writes to Civins: “[W]e firmly object to attempts to create brand names that trade off of Facebook’s fame.” In its complaint, Lamebook argues that it is a “clear parody” and therefore does not infringe or dilute the Facebook mark. The complaint seeks a declaration of non-infringement and non-dilution and a declaration that the First Amendment protects the Lamebook mark. Lamebook also seeks to recover reasonable costs and attorneys fees for its legal action. Johnston did not immediately return a call seeking comment. In response to an emailed inquiry, Elizabeth Linder, a Facebook spokesperson wrote: "We're disappointed that after months of working with Lamebook they have turned to litigation. We believe their website is an improper attempt to trade off of Facebook’s popularity and fame and we will continue to protect our brand and trademark." Civins says he is getting paid for the representation and is not working pro bono, but he declines to detail how Lamebook makes money. On the Lamebook.com site, browsers are invited to contribute to a legal fund.
-- Miriam Rozen