Facebook Trial Over ‘Timeline’ Trademark Rights Delayed

Facebook Inc. (FB)’s trial over its right to use the word “timeline” to describe user profiles has been delayed at least a day and possibly longer.

A jury trial in the trademark infringement case filed in 2011 by the operator of timelines.com was scheduled to start today at the federal courthouse in Chicago.

More than 90 minutes after conferring with lawyers and declaring a recess, U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah retook the bench and said the matter would be taken up tomorrow afternoon or, if necessary, would be postponed to May 7 for a status conference.

The judge offered no explanation for the delay. Douglas Albritton, an attorney for Timelines Inc., declined to immediately comment on the postponement. Lawyers for Facebook also declined to comment.

Facebook is the world’s most-popular social networking website. The Menlo Park, California-based company has more than a billion monthly users, according to its website.

Timelines’ website allows its users to create or add content to historical chronologies documenting topics including space exploration, political assassinations, wars and sporting events.

Internet Chronologies

Chicago-based Timelines sued Facebook a week after the social network announced it was converting user-profile pages previously known as walls to individual chronologies called timelines.

The website Timelines, which has about 94,000 visitors a month, contends it has held a U.S. trademark on the use of “timelines” for user-created Internet chronologies since 2009.

The company is seeking an order barring Facebook from using the word, according to its amended complaint. It’s also seeking compensation equivalent to Facebook’s Timeline-derived ad revenue, Albritton said in a phone interview earlier this month.

Facebook yesterday filed papers asking Darrah to strike Timelines’ request for a jury, arguing that the demands for injunctive relief and wrongful profits are arguments for equitable relief that should be decided by a judge.

Facebook has also countersued, claiming the trademark is too generic to warrant federal rights protection. Darrah on April 1 denied a defense motion for judgment on the issue, setting the matter for a jury trial.

The case is Timelines Inc. v. Facebook Inc., 11-cv-06867, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in the Chicago federal courthouse at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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