Facebook’s Instagram is lawyering up to attack tiny SF-based startup Evergram.com for using the word “gram” in its name.
The case, Instagram v. Evergram No. 91216122, is being argued in The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in Washington, D.C. “This is ridiculous, bullying behavior. Our two trademarks and companies couldn’t be more different, plus the words “Ever” and Insta” have entirely different meanings,” says Evergram’s Co-Founder, Duncan Seay. Which is why Evergram is calling attention to the bullying nature of Facebook’s actions through BullyGram.com.
Shortly after Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, Facebook commenced a systematic and ongoing legal strategy, evidenced by the multiple legal actions (see link below) filed against companies with “Insta” or "Gram" in their names. “It’s as if these guys think they have rights to the entire dictionary,” says Mr. Seay.
Early stage tech startups don't have the time or money to deal with these types of legal situations. Which is exactly why Facebook and Instagram are targeting them. This doesn't show support for the tech ecosystem, instead it shows how anti-startup these guys are. The funny thing is, most of us were building websites and companies before Mark Zuckerberg was even born.
While the immediate dispute resides in the “gram” name, a substantially larger issue may exist according to Seay: “The attempt of a large organization with vast resources to assert a legal position with a goal of outspending a smaller company into compliance or abandonment of its efforts is objectionable on many levels, not to mention the possible violations of trademark misuse and unfair competition laws.”
The worst part of all this is that Facebook is ignoring the 250 plus registered trademarks ending in ‘gram’ or the 100 plus mobile apps using ‘gram’ in their name. Plus, many of these products are for photographic apps marketed under registered names in the same classes as Instagram: Infogram, Photogram, Cinemagram, Panogram and Pictogram,” says Owen Ryan, a trademark expert well known in the Federal Courts for prevailing against trademark cancellation attacks from Facebook-sized competitors such as Anheuser Busch and The Coca-Cola Company.
“When a company with the deep pockets of Facebook and Instagram decides to pick on a non-competitive startup, the public should have an opportunity to voice their opinions. This is currently possible on the website BullyGram.com and through a just released Change.org petition,” said Mr. Seay. “Besides, there are larger issues than just the Evergram name at stake here. I think it’s reasonable to worry that Facebook and Instagram might end up monopolizing the social networking landscape in the same way John D. Rockefeller worked to monopolize the oil business a hundred fifty years ago, leaving consumers with fewer and eventually more expensive choices.”
Instagram’s legal actions against “gram” and “insta” companies: