CEO Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, last week announced that all Facebook-owned subsidiaries will be collectively called Meta. However, it has come to light that an Arizona-based startup, Meta PC, had already applied for the trademark “META” a couple of months before Zuckerberg’s announcement.
Data with the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) shows that Meta PC had actually applied for the “META” trademark on 23 August this year. On the other hand, Meta, previously known as Facebook, had filed the request for the “META” trademark on 28 October.
To add to the confusion, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a non-profit organization established and owned by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, had already received the exclusive rights of the “META” trademark on 28 August 2018.
Since Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Meta belong to two completely different industries, Meta applied for the META trademark once again.
A trademark issued by PTO only gives a legal cover to a company for its brand, products, and services against other companies in the same industry.
However, it doesn’t mean that any company would legally own a particular word and would be able to prevent other companies in other industries from using it.
For instance, although Chan Zuckerberg Initiative had already received the ownership of the META trademark, it could not legally prevent Meta from applying for the same trademark because both organizations belong to different industries.
Note here that Meta PC deals with the sale and purchase of computers, disk drives, keyboards, and other devices while Meta is a conglomerate of all Facebook-owned subsidiaries.
The only way duplication of trademarks can be avoided is that PTO declares that both Meta PC and Meta belong to the same industry. However, it is hard to see that PTO would rule that Meta PC and Meta belong to the same industry, given their completely different businesses.
PTO will hear the petitions soon and is expected to grant the “META” trademark to the company which applied for it first, which is clearly Meta PC as it applied for the trademark more than two months before Meta.
Meta PC’s founder, Zach Shutt, has said that Mark Zuckerberg must pay $20 million to the company if he does not want to share the META trademark with a company other than a Facebook-owned subsidiary.
Shutt added that Meta PC would only withdraw its application from PTO and give the exclusive rights of the META trademark to Meta if Zuckerberg pays the asking price.
In case Zuckerberg fails to meet Shutt’s demand before PTO decides on the petition of Meta PC, Meta would have to re-apply for its trademark and if Meta decides to go with the META trademark again, it can cause a lot of conflicts between the companies in the future.