20 July 2022TrademarksMuireann Bolger

Meta sued over ‘toxic’ infringement by virtual reality pioneer

Facebook’s owner acts like it can “obliterate businesses”, claims lawsuit | Pryor Cashman representing.

Facebook owner Meta Platforms is facing an infringement lawsuit filed by a company specialising in virtual-reality experiences, for allegedly ripping off its name to gain a foothold in the metaverse.

New York-based firm, MetaX, filed the lawsuit at the District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday, July 19.

The lawsuit alleges that Facebook unlawfully seized the ‘Meta’ mark and name, willfully violating the company’s trademark rights and “engaging in egregious acts of unfair competition”.

According to the complaint, the company powers the exact same types of experiences and products that Facebook is now building and has served the same creators and consumers that Facebook is now targeting.

Commenting on the lawsuit, the company’s founder Justin Bolognino said: “MetaX has spent 12 years supporting, developing, and protecting the creator community, creators’ rights, and ironically, creators’ IP. Facebook’s actions, illegally usurping our name and mark, have not only put our business in jeopardy, but that of the entire industry and the intellectual property rights of the innovators that have helped build it.”

Since Facebook’s name change in late 2021, he added, his company had made “good faith efforts” to resolve the situation, but that Facebook had spurned these efforts in refusing” to accept responsibility for its unlawful actions, leaving us no choice but to proceed with litigation”.

‘Destroying communities’

“Not only has Facebook taken aim at our small business but also our reputation, which we have devoted our lives to building over the last decade. Facebook’s rebrand and total disregard for our legal rights creates great concern for us and for the community of individuals, artists, industry and luminaries who MetaX has championed and collaborated with for years,” said Bolognino.

“Facebook acts like it can freely destroy the communities MetaX has helped develop, overrun the industry, and obliterate Metax’s business. But today, MetaX is taking a stand against Facebook’s flagrant and unlawful conduct.”

A team from Pryor Cashman is representing the company, led by partner Dyan Finguerra-DuCharme.

“Facebook has deployed its almost limitless resources to saturate the marketplace with its infringing ‘Meta’ mark. This is textbook reverse confusion, which has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, significant and irreparable harm to MetaX. Facebook cannot be allowed to continue its infringing conduct with impunity,” said Finguerra-DuCharme.

This latest follows a similar complaint filed in November, which saw a Chicago-based tech firm called Meta Company suing Facebook over claims that the social network stole its name and “livelihood” after it rebranded.

A toxic association?

According to the lawsuit filed this week, MetaX has “been crushed by Facebook’s flagrant, unlawful conduct”, as it can no longer provide goods and services under the Meta mark because consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Meta’s goods and services emanate from Facebook.

Consequently, the smaller company had become associated with “the toxicity that is inextricably linked with Facebook”, and stood no chance against the corporate goliath, argued the complaint.

Additionally, the lawsuit outlines how Bolognino emerged as one of the pioneers of the immersive and experiential technology industry, partnering with brand clients including Spotify, Twitter, HP, Microsoft, and Google.

Bolognino and his chief strategy officer Nick Sciorra developed an ‘Unreality’—a social network platform and marketplace tailored to creator communities, and also developed strategies to drive ‘tokenised’ creator grants for immersive and non-fungible token artists and studios.

“This lawsuit is further evidence of Bolognino’s, Sciorra and MetaX’s determination to fight for the IP rights of all those in the industry and for all small businesses being engulfed by corporate goliaths,” said a statement issued by Pryor Cashman.

WIPR has approached Meta Platforms for comment.

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