FiftyThree Accuses Facebook Of Stealing Their App Name

paper-fiftythree

Today, Facebook released an incredible new app called Paper that is a total reimagining of what Facebook on a mobile device means. As I wrote over on Fast Co. Design, it’s the opening sentence in Facebook’s next 10-year plan that puts mobile first.

It’s a great app, but there’s just one problem: the name. There’s another widely known drawing app called Paper by developers FiftyThree Inc. FiftyThree’s not happy about their name being lifted. Facebook’s response? Basically, “tough noogies.”

In a blog post today discussing the issue, FiftyThree criticized Facebook for using the same name as their own app, when Paper By FiftyThree has been trademark since 2012, the same year it was named Apple’s iPad App Of The Year.

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.

According to FiftyThree, they wrote and asked Facebook to stop using the Paper name, but Facebook declined, only saying they should have let FiftyThree know about their plans earlier.

I think there’s basically zero chance Facebook will change the name of their app, so if FiftyThree wants to fight Facebook, they’ll have to take the monolithic social network to court. My guess, though, is FiftyThree will eventually feel the pressure to change their own name. They just don’t have the money to fight this out in court.

Here’s hoping, though, Facebook does the right thing.

  • aardman

    What are the chances that a person with narcissistic-sociopathic personality disorder will do the right thing?

  • HerbalEd

    If 53 has a legally-registered trademark then they can win in a law suite against Facebook … and I’m betting someone out there is willing to fund the suite. Because in the end Facebook will lose, will have to pay court costs and 53′s legal bills, and pay damages.

  • patrickahles

    If 53 has a legally-registered trademark then they can win in a law suite against Facebook … and I’m betting someone out there is willing to fund the suite. Because in the end Facebook will lose, will have to pay court costs and 53′s legal bills, and pay damages.

    That is assuming FiftyThree has an (overly) broad trademark. If the Facebook app does not relate to the trademark, FiftyThree could be in trouble.

  • JaysonNg

    Remember when Facebook sued almost everyone who had the work “book” in their name? oi…

  • TextuallyActive

    I didn’t know Apple would let someone just use any name for your App. I feel like if I made an App and called it Facebook(s) Apple would say “Um, no.” And wouldn’t add it to the store.

  • SoundGuyAndy

    There’s another story behind the story…FiftyThree seems to only recognize bullying when other companies do it to them: http://figure53.com/notes/2014-02-04-david-and-goliath/

  • HowmaNoid

    Is “paper” really a name that can be copyrighted? Microsoft had to back down pronto when they tried to aggressively defend the Windows name. It’s generic and already in common use.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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