A Chicago judge ruled on Monday that Facebook’s Timeline profiles may be guilty of trademark infringement. The social network must now defend itself against a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Timelines Inc., a website that allows users to create customized multimedia chronologies.
Timelines Inc. was founded in 2009, and allows users to create timelines on topics ranging from wars to sports to technology. The site owns trademarks for “Timelines,” “Timelines.com” and “Timelines&design,” and filed the lawsuit just a week after Facebook announced Timeline profiles in September 2011.
Facebook countersued at the time, claiming that the trademarks were too generic to warrant protection. U.S District Judge John W. Darrah ruled that Facebook failed to prove this, and that the court should move ahead with Timeline Inc.’s original lawsuit.
The decision comes at a busy time for Facebook. In addition to updating the Timeline, Facebook is also overhauling its News Feed feature, and is expected to announce the Facebook Phone on Thursday. It is unclear what effect the lawsuit will have on Facebook's pending updates, but considering the inopportune timing, Facebook may opt to reach a settlement with Timelines Inc., rather than let the case play out in a long court hearing.