META claims Facebook stole her name and sues

Imagine waking up to find that the name of the business you created over ten years ago has been suddenly taken over by one of the most powerful companies in the world.

Here’s what Justin Bolognino says happened to him when Facebook rebranding such as Meta last year. His small business is called META — full name — METAX LLC.

“It was surreal. It was like watching a movie,” Bolognino told CNBC in an exclusive on-camera interview, recalling when he first heard the news that Facebook was changing its name.

“This is not the script I ever wanted to have. This is not a scenario I would wish on my worst enemy,” said Bolognino, who is currently suing Facebook parent Meta Platforms for trademark infringement and unfair competition. “When Facebook stole the Meta brand from us, it just completely destroyed our business.”

Bolognino says he started his small business 12 years ago to create multi-sensory live experiences using virtual and augmented reality for events such as Coachella. But business came to an abrupt halt, Bolognino said, following Facebook’s announcement last year.

“[The services we offer] completely identical … we have the same goal – social immersion in virtual space, ”he said.

Diane Finguerra-DuCharmBolognino’s attorney, and partner at Pryor Cashman LLP, says she immediately contacted Meta Platforms to inform the company of her client’s intellectual property infringement.

“This problem of the so-called reverse confusion, where you have a small player who runs his business for a certain period of time, and then you get a giant corporate behemoth with sheer arrogance, saying: “I’m going to own this market now.” and I will deal with it despite the fact that you were here before me,” she told CNBC.

Finguerra-DuCharme said the two companies have been in talks for eight months. Even though thousands of pages of information were handed over to solve the problem, Meta Platforms disagreed, she said.

“Now my client is trying to sell and promote his services, consumers now falsely and erroneously believe that his services come from Facebook,” she said.

Finguerra-Ducharm says her client has no choice but to sue. According to the complaint, META’s business suffered “irreparable and irreparable damage.”

CNBC reached out to Meta Platforms for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Bolognino says he will continue to fight no matter how long it takes.

“We would like to be compensated for 12 years of building such a cool and valuable brand that one of the biggest companies on Earth and Facebook wanted to steal it from us,” he said.

The lawsuit did not specify the amount of monetary damages.

professor of law at the University of Michigan Jessica Litmanco-author of a collection of cases, “Trademarks and Unfair Competition Law: Cases and Materials,” said META has a “perfectly plausible claim.” [against Meta Platforms] and may well win.

“The corporate name is METAx LLC, but the company registered META as a service mark in 2017 and the complaint alleges that they used META as a service mark for their business,” she said. “For the purposes of trademark infringement, it does not matter what corporate name the party has; what is important is which trademark or service mark it uses in its activities.”

Litman says Meta Platforms probably wants to be careful with META because there are plenty of other companies that also use Meta as part of their marketplace — and they could be encouraged to follow suit.

“On the other hand, it will almost certainly be cheaper to pay META enough money to force it to change its name than it is to go through with the lawsuit,” Litman said.

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