By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger.org
A six-person Vermont company is fighting corporate lawyers from Facebook who want to block the startup’s trademark application with the federal government. Based in Burlington, Designbook LLC is an online platform created to help engineers raise money for their inventions from investors nationwide.
Kyle Clark, a 34-year-old materials engineer, founded Designbook in 2014 with 30-year-old electrical engineer Aaron Pollack. They self-fund the company for now, and their business model seeks to make money by taking a cut of what its users are able to raise through crowd-funding.
“When we do this for Vermont businesses it really exposes it to those investors in those markets,” Clark said. “You can now raise capital–being a Vermonter–from the same people who are investing in the businesses in San Francisco.”
Lawyers for Facebook filed formal opposition in May to Designbook’s application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Facebook’s main allegations are that Designbook’s name is so similar that it would both cause confusion in the marketplace and dilute its famous trademark.
In a letter that he mailed to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Gov. Peter Shumlin called the issue an “injustice” and referenced an earlier trademark battle over the slogan “Eat More Kale” that Vermonters won against Chick-fil-A.
A representative from Facebook’s corporate headquarters declined to issue a statement on the situation for this article. The company’s patent lawyers did not return inquiries for comment.
The World Trademark Review ranks Facebook number 10 on a list of “trademark bullies,” and Business Insider ranks it as number 8.