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Sue you, sir

It must be hard being a giant. When you're a small, struggling web start-up, everyone is rooting for you; but when you become a rapidly-growing phenomenon all anyone wants is to drag you down.

Or to make a quick buck from you. That, we suspect, is the motivation behind two weird lawsuits that have just hit Facebook and Twitter this week.

First up, Facebook. They've been the target of a legal challenge by Talkbook, who make cheap long-distance calling apps for smartphones. Given that Facebook has cheerfully sued companies with 'book' in their name before, it seems odd that this time it's the other way round, but TechCrunch suspects this is a case of biting before you're bit. You see, if Talkbook has their way, Facebook wouldn't be able to sue anyone over its name - because its name wouldn't be a trademark.

Allow us to explain. Facebook first applied for a trademark on its name years ago, when it was called 'TheFacebook.' It then amended the application to drop the 'The' later on.

(You remember in The Social Network, when Justin Timberlake is like 'drop the 'the'. Just 'Facebook.' It's cleaner.', and Andrew Garfield just scowls adorably, but Jesse Eisenberg is like OMG THIS GUY IS A GENIUS?)

According to Talkbook, this amendment was in some way (we can't make head or tail of the legal documents) spurious, and as such, the whole Facebook trademark should be cancelled. That would potentially leave Facebook open to be sued by every company with 'Face' or 'book' in the name - the hunter turned hunted, if you will.

Talkbook's chances of success? Pretty much nil, we suspect, but they might wring a few mill out of Zuckerberg & co. by way of a settlement.

As for Twitter? Well, this one is even sillier. Twitter has been sued by VS Technologies, a company no-one has heard of and which appears to do nothing (except sue people). They claim that in 2002 they were granted a patent for a 'method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people.' Which could describe Twitter, but really also Facebook, YouTube or any site with a social element.

VS Technologies' chances are, we reckon, even worse than Talkbook's; and they weren't facing a possible suit from Twitter, so it's not like they can claim self-defence.

Still, we reckon both Facebook and Twitter can afford decent lawyers...

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