Get Off My Paper Route, Facebook, Says Disgruntled App Maker FiftyThree
Have you read the Paper today? No, not the new Facebook app of the same name that launched yesterday but rather the idea sharing tool developed by FiftyThree that won a Best Design award at the Chrunchies in 2012 and was also an Apple App of the Year.
The old Paper app allows you to instantly stream your ideas and helps your creative thought capturing process with five tools to sketch, write, draw, outline and color new ideas. You can then share these notes and illustrations with friends or browse fresh ideas from other creators.
Paper by FiftyThree
Now, if you were to do a Google search for the term “Paper” you would see a listing for this app, an entry about actual paper in Wikipedia and news starting to creep to the top related to Facebook’s Paper launch today. While Facebook’s version of Paper is more of a Flipboard-style news reader for mobile devices (currently on iOS), the naming conflict has the original Paper makers peeved.
“We were really surprised when we heard that Facebook was releasing an app called Paper,” Georg Petschnigg, co-founder and CEO of FiftyThree, told the New York Times in a phone interview. He even said the “Paper” app had been trademarked in the U.S. and several other countries around the world. Because of this the company has asked Facebook to stop using the name. “We have, in writing, asked Facebook to refrain from using the name,” Mr. Petschnigg said. “But their response was that they apologized for not letting us know sooner, but as it stands, they are continuing with their launch.”
The Paper app by FiftyThree has over 10 million downloads with 100 million ideas shared and, while Facebook’s version is more about exploring content, both apps feature elements for sharing and creating content. Not only that, Facebook has often been on the opposite side of these type of trademark disputes, where it’s threatened litigation against other companies that used the word “book” in their name or logos. Facebook has even tried to expand its trademark rights to the term “book” with a new user agreement on the site, though they don’t own a registered trademark on the word. Rather Facebook tries to assert rights over how the word can be used similarly.
Petschnigg, trying to plead with Facebook, wrote on the company’s blog:
There’s a simple fix here. 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.. Facebook should stop using our brand name. What will Facebook’s story be? Will they be the corporate giant who bullies their developers? Or be agile, recognize a mistake and fix it? Is it ‘Move fast and break things’ or ‘Move fast and make things?’
But the problem is the app company has a trademark for the term “Paper by FiftyThree,” and just like Facebook, everything is a “sharing” app these days and they shouldn’t be allowed to coin common words in the English language. Perhaps Paper should have put some more thought into what it called its app as well! This wasn’t the first app named Paper in the Apple store, either, so let this serve as a lesson to businesses to create unique names that they can actually protect. If you try to get cute by naming your brand or app after a real word to come up higher in search, you can’t cry when other businesses use the word for their purposes too, just like FiftyThree did and everyone before them. Well, I guess you can cry, you just won’t likely win in court.