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Originally published Monday, February 3, 2014 at 6:32 PM

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Startup confronts Facebook over Paper app’s name

FiftyThree, maker of a popular iPad app called Paper, is asking Facebook to find a different name for its new mobile news app.

Los Angeles Times

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SAN FRANCISCO — Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery for some. But not for FiftyThree, the maker of a popular app called Paper.

The startup is spitting mad that Facebook on Monday rolled out a new app also called Paper.

Facebook should get, well, more creative with the name of its new mobile news app, Georg Petschnigg, chief executive and co-founder of FiftyThree, said in an interview.

His company’s iPad app is all about the human need to create, he said. The drawing app lets tens of millions of people share their ideas all over the Web — and on Facebook.

FiftyThree’s Paper app was released in March 2012. It was such a big hit that Apple named it the best iPad app of 2012.

So Petschnigg said it came as a shock to find out last week that Facebook planned to roll out an app with the same name.

“That was an interesting way to wake up in the morning, to see the name of our application Paper all over the media and associated with another company,” he said.

FiftyThree heard from the media, developers and users, all of whom were confused about why Facebook was using the name, Petschnigg said. And that confusion, he said, could cause damage to FiftyThree, which has built up a lot of value in its Paper brand.

“The full extent of the damage is unknown at this point,” he said. “There’s little room to coexist with an organization as large as Facebook.”

Over the weekend, Paper’s lawyers sent a letter to Facebook asking the giant social network to pick another name for its app.

Facebook declined to comment.

It’s a bit ironic for Facebook to have lifted the Paper name, since the social network has aggressively gone after any company using the word “book” in its name.

But this is likely the way Facebook sees it: The Paper name most accurately conveys its new app — a combination of Facebook and news consumption that has a very tactile feel.

So far, Facebook’s version of Paper is available only on the iPhone (although if successful, it’s likely that it will expand to other platforms). There are already a number of apps called Paper. And FiftyThree has a trademark on the Paper by FiftyThree, not just Paper.

“All technology and consumer-product companies must be careful about how they name their products, and this is no different,” said Gartner Research analyst Brian Blau.

“In most cases, the companies involved work out their differences without much fanfare.”

Petschnigg said he’s an optimist by nature and “we are remaining hopeful we can find a solution. We are keeping our options open.”

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