Facebook settles Timelines trademark suit

facebook logoFacebook and Timelines Inc. have reached a settlement in the trademark case against the social network, according to a document Facebook filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Timelines Inc. operates Timelines.com, a website for people to create and collaborate on historical timelines. The company sued Facebook in September 2011 after it debuted an overhauled profile page it called “timeline.” Timelines Inc. has registered trademarks for “Timelines,” “Timelines.com” and its “Timelines” logo.

Facebook had asserted that its use of “timeline” was generic and qualified as “fair use.” Facebook requested a summary judgment to prevent the case from going to trial, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the motion. The case was set to go to trial last week, but then delayed without explanation.

It seems the companies worked out a settlement agreement in the meantime. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, apart from the following in Facebook’s 10-Q quarterly report:

“We are also party to various legal proceedings and claims which arise in the ordinary course of business. Among these legal matters, in two cases, Summit 6 LLC v. Research in Motion Corporation et al., and Timelines, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., we have reached agreements to settle the matters. The cost of settlement in each case, which is included in the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2013, was not material to our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”

Through the lawsuit, Timelines Inc. sought to prevent Facebook from continuing to use the term and to receive compensation equivalent to Facebook’s ad revenue generated on Timeline pages. However, it is unlikely the settlement was close to that range. It also seems Facebook will be allowed to continue to use the “timeline” name for its profile product.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment. We’ve reached out to Timelines Inc. for comment, but have not yet gotten a reply.

Facebook removes option to view only friends’ posts on a page

friendsFacebook recently removed the “posts by friends” view of pages, which used to show all the posts a user’s friends had with or about a given page. This could signal a possible new feature that gives users more options to find posts and conversations about a topic.

Currently, users can filter posts on a brand or fan page by “highlights,” “posts by page” or “posts by others,” as seen below. “Posts by friends” used to be a fourth option to help users find what their friends had said about a page. This included posts made directly on the page’s wall, as well as friends’ status updates or other posts that mentioned the topic, either through @ tagging or basic text mentions.


Facebook did not say when exactly it eliminated this feature, but confirmed that it was removed intentionally.

“We continue to improve pages to make them a place for people to learn and interact with different businesses,” a company spokesperson told us. “News Feed is where people can engage we posts and content from their friends and connections. Given that, we removed ‘posts by friends’ on pages. Those posts can still be seen in ‘posts by others.’”

Although friends’ posts are included in “posts by others,” this view includes all wall posts and mentions by anyone on Facebook. There does not seem to be any additional prominence given to posts from friends, so it is not as useful for finding out whether a person’s friends have engaged with the page or said anything about the topic in the past. However, it’s likely that this was an infrequent use case, and that many users did not know this was possible and therefore didn’t use it much.

As Facebook expands Graph Search to incorporate users’ posts and status updates, it could offer an even better tool for this scenario. For example, in the future users might be able to search “posts by my friends about Barack Obama.” There have also been reports that Facebook is considering a way to incorporate hashtags into its service, which might also help users explore what their friends and others are saying about a person, company, issue or event.

Updated: ‘Watched’ and ‘want to watch’ buttons come temporarily to Facebook’s Sponsored Stories

watch-sponsored-story[Update 4/24/13: We've learned that the addition of "watched" and "want to watch" buttons on Page Like Sponsored Stories, as seen in the image to the right, was a temporary bug and this ad type will not have these buttons going forward. Facebook says advertisers were not charged for these clicks. We've removed parts of this report to reflect our new information.]

With the launch of the new Timeline sections, Facebook users have new options to engage with paid and organic stories about movies, TV shows, books and music in more authentic and structured ways, including being able to indicate that they “want to watch” a film.

However, there are still limits to which actions advertisers can pay to promote and the data they receive about these new engagement types.

Understanding Timelines Inc’s trademark case against Facebook

timelineFacebook and Timelines Inc. is scheduled to begin trial today in a case over the social network’s “timeline” profile feature, which Timelines says infringes on its trademark over the word “Timelines.”

Timelines Inc. operates Timelines.com, a website for people to create and collaborate on historical timelines. The company sued Facebook in September 2011 after it debuted an overhauled profile page it called “timeline.” Timelines Inc. has registered trademarks for “Timelines,” “Timelines.com” and its “Timelines” logo. The company is seeking damages “equivalent to Facebook’s Timeline-derived ad revenue,” according to Bloomberg.

Facebook asserted that its use of “timeline” was generic and it requested a summary judgment to prevent the case from going to trial. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied Facebook’s motion, and now the companies will face a jury.

Here’s a breakdown of Timelines’ and Facebook’s arguments. Note that the case is over the use of the word “timeline,” not the design or functionality of Facebook’s profile.



Timeline gets new section for Groups

groupsFacebook is rolling out a new Groups section of Timeline today to allow users to share and highlight the groups that they’re a part of, a company spokesperson tells us.

With the latest Timeline redesign, Facebook overhauled the About page so that it’s one long page with different content-specific sections. Users have more options to show off their favorite movies, books and music, as well as their fitness activity and other stories they’ve shared through Open Graph apps. Users can also pick which sections appear on their profile and the order in which they appear.


The new Groups section will only display “open groups” that users have joined. If a user was added or invited to a group but didn’t accept, it will not appear on the person’s Timeline. Closed or private groups will also be hidden. The point is to highlight the groups that users might represent part of their identity and to help their friends find groups that they might be interested in joining.

Since the new Timeline began rolling out, Facebook has also added a Games section and hidden the Events section while it addresses a bug.

Facebook hires and departures: Timeline designer leaves; 27 other positions filled

hiresFacebook product designer Nicholas Felton who was instrumental in the profile overhaul that became Timeline in 2011, announced today that he would be leaving the company after two years.

Felton joined the Facebook team through an acqui-hire deal of his company Daytum in April 2011. He is well known for his “Feltron Annual Reports,” which display detailed data about his personal activity and habits over the course of a year. He logs his sleep, meals, exercise, travel, work habits, time spent with other people, clothing choices, content consumption and more, then compiles it into unique visualizations. Facebook sought him out as they set out to redesign the profile to help users better share their lives and identities. He did not share what his plans were after Facebook.

Facebook brings ‘watched,’ ‘want to read’ and other buttons to mobile feed

open graph actionsWith the new Timeline, Facebook users can share richer stories about the books, movies, TV shows and music in their lives.

The social network is beginning to get to the vision it set out at the expansion of Open Graph in 2011. Users don’t have to Like a book, they can read it. Similarly, they can watch a movie or listen to an artist. The latest profile redesign helps users list what they’ve read, watched or listened to, but also what they want to read, watch and listen to.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a number of new ways Facebook is helping users fill out these sections of their About page, including through desktop News Feed stories and Timeline modules. Now we’ve seen options on mobile, too. In the past, it hasn’t been very easy for users to update their profiles from mobile besides Liking things in the feed. Now, it’s easier to add a range of new information just by browsing News Feed and tapping a few buttons.


Facebook profile bug prevents users from seeing Events on Timeline

eventsAs Facebook rolls out its new Timeline design, some users have noticed that there’s no longer a way to display events they’re attending or view the events their friends have RSVP’d to. A Facebook engineer says this is a bug and the company is working on a fix.

In the old layout, users could access an events tab similar to what is currently available on business and fan pages. With the redesign, which only applies to user profiles, tabs have a new look and several new ones have been added for movies, books, fitness and apps. Events were part of this when the company initially launched the new design, but at some point in the past two weeks it stopped working.

Facebook product engineer Bob Baldwin answered a question on Reddit today about the issue. He said there is a bug that events lead Ed Maia is working to fix before re-enabling the module.

[Update: Privacy advocacy group Europe-v-Facebook.org explains that when the events module first rolled out, it revealed a user's past public events, which had not been previously available to a user's friends or other users from Timeline. The group says it notified Facebook of this issue. It is unclear whether the events bug Baldwin mentioned is related.]


Screenshot from Matt Navarra.

Facebook gives users new ways to add movies, books and more to Timeline

open graph actionsAs the new Timeline and News Feed rolls out to more users, Facebook is providing more ways for users to share stories about the books, movies, TV shows and music in their lives. This week we found ways for users to add movies to their “watched” or “want to watch” lists directly from News Feed. Users can also do the same for other content they find on friends’ profiles.

For example, when users see stories in News Feed about items friends have added to their Timeline, they can click a plus button in the corner of the item and select a list to add it to and who to share it with. This became available for music stories last week, and this week we saw it become part of movie-related stories, such as the one below.

These features encourage users to connect with more pages, which ultimately improves the social network’s ad targeting, search results, News Feed relevance and recommendations.


Facebook rolling out games section of Timeline

gamesFacebook is adding a new section to users’ About pages on their Timeline that showcases the social games they play.

The games section is similar to the movies, books, TV and music sections launched with the latest profile redesign earlier this month. It displays the games users have recently played and all those that they’ve Liked. Users can customize the order of their About page to feature games more prominently near the top or hide it completely.

However, unlike those other sections for entertainment, the games section does not include a list of games users “want to play.”



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