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Start-up to Google: OpenSocial's too close to our name

FindMeOn, a small social media company, claims that the name of Google's OpenSocial developer initiative is too close for comfort to its own 'OpenSN' project.

A small New York-based social media start-up called FindMeOn intends to send Google a letter asking that it change the name of its OpenSocial initiative, CNET has learned. FindMeOn founded a project called OpenSN (Open Social Networking) in 2006, and according to founder and CEO Jonathan Vanasco, the similarity of its name to Google's newer project is getting in the way of business.

The company also has tentative plans for legal action.

FindMeOn, which develops technology to aggregate profile data from various social-networking sites, created OpenSN as a way to convert a profile from one social network to another. The start-up sees problems with both the naming of and the technology behind Google's OpenSocial, a standard that allows developers to create applications that are interoperable across participating social networks.

"We are planning to formally ask Google to both cease use of the name 'Open Social' for their multi-network widget/protocols platform, and end current attempts to trademark it," reads a statement from FindMeOn, which Vanasco plans to release on Monday afternoon. "While our products are not functionally identical, they are obviously similar in design and nature; Google's choice of naming their product has created an unfortunate confusion between our competing technologies."

The start-up has consequently been speaking with a number of intellectual property litigation firms and patent holding groups about the matter. FindMeOn does not hold a formal trademark on the name, but the company says that it is subject to common-law trademarks and protections because it has been conducting interstate business with the name (and owned the domain since October 2006--a year before OpenSocial existed.

FindMeOn said that due to the complexity of the legal proceedings, it cannot give a road map for the letter to Google and any potential legal action, but materials related to the claim will be made available on the Web next week.

This will not be an easy case for a small, virtually unknown company as it goes up against a company like Google--even though OpenSocial is a nascent division of the search giant that has yet to launch in full. And there are further complications: not only did FindMeOn not obtain a trademark for the name OpenSN, but a Google search for "OpenSN" revealed that there are other companies, primarily foreign ones, using the same name.

If the story sounds familiar, that's because it is: many an obscure start-up has gone after a big tech player over some technology or idea that it sees as a bit too familiar. In the social media world, the best-known example of this is arguably the allegations against Facebook that have been brought on by onetime rival ConnectU. That case has been going on for several years now without a verdict; it's far too early to tell whether the impending claim against OpenSocial will result in anything quite so drawn-out.

Representatives from Google were not immediately available for comment.