Bengaluru-based start-up Houzify has alleged that Facebook took down its page without a warning after US-based Houzz complained about trademark infringement, with the entire incident sparking a free Internet debate.
In December last year, Houzz, which has its headquarters at Palo Alto - where Facebook was incubated, had served a legal notice on Housify, claiming that the Indian company was infringing on its trademark.
Both the companies sell home decor. Houzify's page reportedly had 52,000 followers. It was taken down on March 4.
The Indian company said it had applied to the Indian Trademarks Registry for a trademark on the two names, Houzify and Housify. The application is still pending.
In September last year, Houzify had raised a seed round funding from T V Mohandas Pai, the founder of Aarin Capital, and Naveen Tewari, the founder and chief executive officer of InMobi.
Pai, who is also a former Infosys director, said Facebook should have considered both sides of the dispute.
"A platform like Facebook, which is driven by the core values of connecting people all over the world, is expected to demonstrate an empathetic approach to both sides of a dispute. To remove Houzify's page without any investigation into the trademark claims in the country of its founding shows a marked disrespect to protections that are already enforced by IP regulators and courts in India," he said in a statement. Pai added: "We call on Facebook to respect the processes that protect Houzify's branding domain, and to restore its page until the matter is resolved in the Indian courts."
Houzify claimed that Houzz had appealed to Facebook to remove its page, and it was done without any prior warning. It also said that its brand name, logo and market were in India - quite different from Houzz's US market.
In the cease and desist order sent to Houzify in December, Houzz had demanded the Indian company stop using the brand names Housify and Houzify and handover the domains to it.
According to the Indian company, however, its legal team has been able to refute the US firm's allegations.
"Houzz's impending launch in India validates the huge market opportunity in the home decor space. Healthy competition is good for everyone and having initiated a legal process, Houzz should have continued down that path instead of bringing down the Houzify Facebook page. Such tactics stifle the local start·up ecosystem. Houzify is well poised for growth and that must be worrying Houzz," said Sharad Sharma, the co·founder of iSPIRT Foundation, in a statement.