How to Trademark Your Face

I love Facebook. Some days, I almost love it as much as I love pie (or pi). But when the Ministry of Silly Walks informed me several days ago that the Patent and Trademark Office had given Facebook the go-ahead to move forward with its trademark application for the word “Face,” I was appalled. Are you kidding? I thought. They’re really going to just roll over and give them “face” and take it out of the public lexicon so that we’ll have to make a funny hand signal when we want to tell someone they’ve got egg on their [insert hand symbol]? Like we did for a decade when Prince decided he’d rather be known as a symbol of his own imaginary alphabet? Frankly, on hearing this my love for Facebook went all squishy and started to curdle. It was tarnished in the same way it would have been if I’d found its diary in the top drawer of my armoire while innocently looking for a clean undershirt and accidentally read the page marked WORLD DOMINATION.

Of course, not being entirely naive, I was already aware that Facebook was going to duke it out with Google and the goblins and frost giants at Ragnarok to decide the fate of humanity. But that wasn’t supposed to happen until the End of the World! Which was ages in the future.  In the meantime, the everyday niceties of life (e.g., hot chocolate; another birthday greeting from a Facebook friend; a free .45 from an anonymous Mob Wars admirer; a bumper crop in Farmville) had managed to lull me into a state of Homer Simpleton acceptance, my sensibilities on par with those of a man addled by too many potato chips and headed towards post-gastronomic narcolepsy. While outside, in the cold dark void, the monsters still lurked, ceaselessly scurrying about trying to mine your personal data and sell you things you didn’t need, that was just background noise. Inside, near the cozy fire and the blazingly fast T3 line that was only $59 a month (and let you stream endless YouTube videos of Shakira and the sultans of swing), life was good. A $3.99 latte would get you through forty status updates and some silly photos of John the Baptist when he was at a party in Galilee hanging out with the bearded ladies.

But this . . . this frontal assault on the language of creation, well, this was just plain wrong. This corporate scheme cooked up by the faceless droids who line the halls of Facebook was shameless, like McDonald’s suing the high school girl who tried to create a McFest to raise money for crippled children. (“Sorry, missy, we own the word ‘Mc.’ And we don’t care if it is part of your name.”). Apparently, the Facebook demon is kith and kin to the McDonald’s ghast (You didn’t think Ronald McDonald was actually friendly, did you? He’s a scary CLOWN for God’s sake!), and both of them are third cousins of the Google gobbler, whose sole intention is to occupy the role of Big Brother in all the black-and-white films TBS ruined by colorizing.

Together, this shibboleth — this corporate multinational intergalactic conglomerate — intends to eat you. They are not benign. First, they start by handing out toys (“Bread to the peasants, my love!”) and staging public dramas for your entertainment (“A free U2 concert! Wow!”), and after years and years of what you in your befuddled innocence think of as “friendship,” you will suddenly wake one fine day to find that you have:

*   No friends

*   No privacy

*   No money

*   No personality

*   No identity

First they start by taking your face.


  1. Legolas2112 says:

    I would not think they could copyright the word ‘Face’, or else ‘Face The Nation’ would have done so, but to copyright ‘Facebook’ as one word seems totally in their rights.

  2. Pingback: Trademark Box
  3. Ann says:

    Robert, this is the funniest thing I have read in a long, long time. Your use of kurrent kulture is just perfect. While I can’t write like you do, I know great work when I read it. Write On.

  4. Michelle says:

    It amazes me what corporations are allowed to trademark. Seems like a single, very common word shouldn’t be even considered.

    Since this was in 2010 — I’m wondering if there’s an update on it? Were they given the trademark?

    • Thanks for the post. It amazes me as well when the PTO grants marks for commons words. FACES, for example, was granted registration for an online adult photo sharing site — which is strange enough in itself — but then the PTO got tough with the people who tried to trademark BOOKT and ZBOOK and denied their registrations for failure to comply with certain requirements. So far, FB neither has rights to FACE nor BOOK by themselves, and it’s doubtful they ever will.

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