Facebook today launched its news reading app, Paper, but the launch was not without controversy. iOS development company FiftyThree was not pleased with the name of Facebook’s new app and petitioned the social network to change its name. FiftyThree is the company behind the drawing app Paper. Paper is well-known in the App Store and won Apple’s 2012 iPad App of the Year award. It launched long before Facebook’s app, so it’s reasonable for FiftyThree to be upset with Facebook’s choice of an app name.
So it came as a surprise when we learned on January 30th with everyone else that Facebook was announcing an app with the same name—Paper. Not only were we confused but so were our customers (twitter) and press (1,2,3,4). Was this the same Paper? Nope. Had FiftyThree been acquired? Definitely not. Then, what’s going on?
We reached out to Facebook about the confusion their app was creating, and they apologized for not contacting us sooner. But an earnest apology should come with a remedy.
There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story. Facebook should stop using our brand name.
FiftyThree can ask Facebook to change its app name, but it likely doesn’t have the grounds to challenge it legally. As pointed out by TechCrunch, FiftyThree registered a trademark for its drawing app, but secured the word mark of “Paper By FiftyThree,” not “Paper.” There also are other apps that use the name Paper, including two that were launch before FiftyThree’s drawing app landed in the app store.
In the end, the newspaper analogy implied in the name “Paper” maybe have been too much for Facebook to pass up, even if it means Facebook is treading very closely to the name of Paper by Fifty Three.