FiftyThree, makers of Paper for iPad, kindly ask Facebook Paper to change its name, but should it?


When Facebook announced its new Flipboard-like iPhone app called Paper last week, its name instantly brought to mind for many the popular sketching app for iPad called Paper by FiftyThree.

Facebook Paper takes design cues more aggressively from the magazine-influenced Flipboard app than anywhere else, and the company has historically borrowed from others for its products (remember Poke and Camera before the Instagram purchase and Direct feature?), but FiftyThree believes Facebook should reconsider its branding for its latest product…

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In a blog post shared by the company on Monday, FiftyThree describes the confusion that Facebook’s new app name has caused as well as Facebook’s response:

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 FiftyThree doesn’t think Facebook should stop there. The developers specifically expressed that they believe Facebook should rebrand its new product:

But an earnest apology should come with a remedy… Facebook should stop using our brand name.

For now, Facebook Paper is only an iPhone app while Paper by FiftyThree exists separately for iPad users, but it’s safe to assume Facebook will expand its support for the iPad sooner than later.

Could that presence diminish Paper by FiftyThree’s presence in App Store search results in the future?

For me, the two companies have different instances of brand recognition: Facebook is the dominant brand in Facebook Paper, but Paper is the dominant brand in Paper by FiftyThree.

FiftyThree would prefer Facebook Paper adopt a new name to address its complaint, but I personally can’t see a company of Facebook’s size make that consideration following the marketing around its new product.

Paper has been around way before Facebook or FiftyThree

Paper has been around way before Facebook or FiftyThree

I do expect as Facebook Paper’s product support expands past the iPhone and onto other platforms, it would be reasonable for it to become the only Facebook app. iPhone users are already deleting the primary Facebook app as Facebook Paper rolls out (although I imagine the lack of feature parity will squash that for now).

That would probably alleviate any obfuscation over the branding.

For Facebook, Paper isn’t a timeless brand or an entirely separate product than Facebook. For FiftyThree, Paper (as general as it is) is their focus.

I suspect time will heal this wound as it does. What about you? Should Facebook Paper adopt a new name in the meantime or offer more than an apology to FiftyThree, or is “paper” up for grabs for anyone?

(Top image made with Paper… by FiftyThree, not Facebook)

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  1. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    I’ll be publishing an app called “The Stuff” and you better believe those cease and desist notices will be going out to anyone who thinks they can use the words The or Stuff.

  2. Inaba-kun (@Inaba_kun) - 9 years ago

    Such is the risk of choosing such incredibly generic words for brand names.

    Maybe try to be more original next time and come up with a new word or phrase, such as Spotify or iPod. Those seemed to work out okay.

  3. ikir - 9 years ago

    Facebook should check available names, at least in popular apps, before choosing a name. Paper is quite a big app in ipad land. so i agree Facebook should change name.

  4. bwulfe - 9 years ago

    The fact remains that 53 produced their “Paper” App first. When I glanced at a headline about Facebook’s Paper App for the iPhone; the first thought tat occured to me was “When did Facebook purchase that App & Why?” Considering how popular 53’s Paper App was at launch; one would thik that Facebook would consider providing this iOS app with a name that would not be easily confused with a well-known, pre-existing App. I understand the reasoning when it comes to small / sleazy companies who try to capitalize on the good reputation of someone elses App; but for a publicly traded corporation the size of Facebook; this doesn’t make sense.

  5. Nico Ungari - 9 years ago

    Facebook is being just a bully. Honestly it seems to me that besides the incredible UX, Paper is simply a restyling of the app. Central newsfeed with the addition of a few general news topics. flipboard did it better and earlier at the mobile/tablet level and theneeds did it better with content curation!

  6. myke2241 - 9 years ago

    should facebook’s app be rejected from the app store just by the mere fact that the name is already taken?

  7. Torrey Huerta - 9 years ago

    I guess we’ll see who has the most lawyers. I’m gonna guess FB.

  8. You should ask FiftyThree why they’re so up in arms that Facebook is doing this to them, but had no qualms doing the same with their company name versus Figure 53…

  9. Jason Hambrick - 9 years ago

    Facebook wouldn’t change it…they’ll just buy out FiftyThree.

  10. rahhbriley - 9 years ago

    FB should have to change the name. If for no other reason than their legal pursuit of services like Teacher Book and the like. They protect their “book” part of their name all of time. Not sure why they think this is okay with an already increasingly popular service. And there HAS BEEN confusion.

  11. FiftyThree should never have called their app, Paper. The reason Facebook can get away with it is the name is not capable of being Trademarked. If it were Trademarked by FiftyThree they would have a case.

  12. focher - 9 years ago

    Umm, FiftyThree has a trademark on it. That trademark likely applies to software applications, so the “generic” argument won’t apply in that space. FB just figures they can steamroll them. We will just have to wait and see.

  13. pethr - 9 years ago

    Well, have they chosen to call it Facebook Windows, they’d be dealing with lawyers not blogposts right now.

  14. Would Facebook ask FiftyThree to change the name of one of it’s products? Yes. Yes, it would.

  15. If companies start producing products and naming them Apple or Windows – how many of you think that Apple or Microsoft won’t get after them? Well according to this article “Apple” or “Windows” were there before anything existed.
    How about I use my website “9 to 5 – fun” will you guys be ok with it?

  16. David Mitchell - 9 years ago

    If you want to really control the sources and topics you read news from, I would suggest using because you can basically add content from every website, not only those listed in their curated sections.

  17. Bitch Republic (@BitchR) - 9 years ago

    Yes, FB definitely ought to change the name of its app.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.