Meta is a 12-year-old company which creates immersive experiences. Everything changed for them when, social media giant, Facebook, recently in October 2021, changed its name to Meta. During this time, there were a lot of concerns regarding this sudden change but it’s only now that an aggrieved party is going public and suing the “Meta-Facebook” for trademark infringement, unfair competition and damages as well. According to the Company’s claims, “Meta-Facebook” infringed two of the legal trademarks owned by the company and also engaged in unfair competition leading to the coaxing of a lot of big customers.
During an interview, the founder of the company Meta, Justin Bolognino, referred to this as an entrepreneur/startup founder’s ‘worst nightmare’. He builds his brand and the concept of Metaverse for years. “You’re talking about one of the most valuable words and ideas in the entire world,” he says. “Goldman Sachs says it’s an $8 billion-plus industry over the next decade. That industry is based on this idea of meta, of the metaverse–this other realm that we will inhabit–that we spent 12 years building.” He went on to state that, even though the company has just five employees, full time, the company makes use of an army of contractors and independent work of creators to get the immersive experience which is experienced by more than 10,000 people.
By September of 2021, it looked like all his decade’s worth of handwork would finally pay off. Due to the extremely successful projects with Rolling Stone, Microsoft, and Red Bull, among many others like the high-profile experience at Coachella, SXSW and various other conferences, Justin believed that the time had come for Meta. He sent an email to all the workpeople affiliated with the company crowing that the world had become “discernabily more…META.” And, he also stated, “With the sudden explosion of the Metaverse, we finally see creators getting the praise and earnings they deserve thanks to NFTs.”
However, everything changed a month later when Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement. Justin was in Las Vegas at the time working through Arcadia Earth – an immersive showing about sustainability. “I was alone, eating a stale, boring breakfast. My phone was on the table and it’s just bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.” Justin saw his phone and what he saw was an uncanny, “out-of-body experience.” “It was like someone else was watching a movie of me looking at Mark Zuckerberg with this big grin on his face.”
Meta’s lawyers sent a notice to Meta-Facebook’s lawyers cautioning them about the infringement and also demanded relief. Meta-Facebook’s lawyers replied to this notice stating that because they work in completely different spheres, there would be no confusion. The company “offers multi-sensory live experiences to engage audiences and consumers”, the lawyers wrote. Meta-Facebook would use the brand to compile their social tech and also bring Metaverse to life. They also stated that Meta-Facebook has put forth various existing marks of other companies named Meta and hence, it lead to the back-date of their own mark since before Meta was founded.
However, according to the lawsuit, Meta found itself competing with Meta-Facebook at conferences, and for similar consumers too and the complaints sent by the company to the Meta that were once Facebook went unheard. Hence, finally, after 8 months of continuous efforts, Meta filed the lawsuit. Justin claimed that it was the last thing he wanted to do. “We wanted to just create the coolest immersive experiences in the world.”
In case Meta wins, it gets both damages and an injection to restrict Meta-Facebook from the use of its trademark in those spheres where the company works. Although there’s a big question, what if it loses? To answer this, Justin remained silent for some seconds and said, “I don’t want to give a non-answer but this is the problem”. He also said, “This is 12 years of a brand that was going to be on my tombstone. This is my identity. Everything that we are is META. I don’t know what else there is or what to do. I don’t know.”
Justin’s legal team thinks that Meta-Facebook will reply to the suit within 21 days as it is required for them to do so, legally. “No idea what they’ll do. It’s impossible to tell,” says Nicholas Saady, a lawyer from Meta’s team. “I’ve learned that you never predict the outcome of litigation or the progress of litigation. Because it’s always crazy.”