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Facebook settles business lawsuit with Timelines Inc.

An Internet company based in the Midwest, which reportedly has roughly 94,000 monthly users, has settled a lawsuit against the social media giant Facebook. The company filed a lawsuit against the popular social media service in 2011 after Facebook announced that it was changing the name of the chronological function on the service from the Facebook “wall” to the timeline. The social networking site made the announcement in 2011.

Two years earlier, entrepreneurs obtained a trademark for the use of “timelines” for user created chronologies. The company holding the trademark, Timelines Inc., runs a website, which allows users to create chronologies on its website and sued Facebook for trademark infringement.

The company sought to protect its trademark through an injunction, barring Facebook from using the term timelines on its chronological function. The business litigation also sought compensation from Facebook related to the revenues the social networking service generated through advertisements posted on the Facebook timeline.

Facebook filed a countersuit in the case, and argued that the court should void the trademark registration, arguing that the term timelines was too generic to receive trademark registration. Facebook sought to have the court make the ruling as a matter of law and grant the social network giant judgment in its favor.

On April 1, the court denied that request and set the case on for trial on the merits. When the trial date arrived April 22, the parties agreed to postpone the trial. In early May, Facebook announced that the case had been settled without trial on undisclosed terms.

Business litigation can involve complex disputes between companies over issues that can impact a company’s revenues, trade secrets, or in some cases, identity. Often, businesses will seek a ruling of the court based upon legal arguments, which can avoid a trial on the merits. But, a case may also settle on terms the parties find favorable before producing the evidence at trial.

Source: Bloomberg, "Facebook, Timelines Website End Trademark Infringement Suit," Andrew Harris, May 7, 2013

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