Facebook Apologizes For Merck Web Page Goof

Facebook Apologizes For Merck Web Page Goof

November 29th, 2011 // 1:34 pm @

One week after being sued by Merck KGgA for allowing that other Merck to misappropriate a web page, Facebook is apologizing to the German drugmaker and its US namesake for what it is describing as an ‘administrative error,’ according to a spokesman for the wildly popular social media site.

“The transfer of the vanity URL Facebook.com/Merck from Merck KGaA to Merck & Co. was due to an administrative error. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,” the spokesman wrote us today. You can see the vanity page here: www.facebook.com/merck. For the record, each drugmaker owns exclusive rights to the Merck trademark in different geographical areas.

The lawsuit marked an unexpected twist in the battle by drugmakers to lay claim to Internet space as they seek to find new ways to hone their images, sell products and reach consumers. In its lawsuit, Merck KGgA charged that Facebook breached an agreement for the exclusive use of a web page with that address, and claimed that administrative rights were assigned to just a few people, including Merck KGgA employees or an Internet service provider.

But last month, Merck KGgA checked its Facebook account and found that it no longer had administrative rights to the page and the page had content that appeared to be created by, and is related to, the other Merck, according to the lawsuit. After encountering a series of frustrating e-mail exchanges with Facebook, the drugmaker filed its lawsuit.

Going forward, the web page will not be available unless the two Mercks come to some kind of agreement about its use. Barring an arrangement, each drugmaker can create a new username of a so-called vanity URL for their companies, or simply maintain an official Facebook page. A spokeswoman for Merck KGgA says the drugmaker is looking into the situation. We have not yet heard back from Merck, which is based in the US, but will update you accordingly.

[UPDATE: A Merck spokesman called the episode a ‘tempest in a teapot,’ because its Facebook page will remain active. At some point, he adds, Merck could employ a different vanity page. He adds that the dust-up generated more traffic to its Facebook page; Merck added a few hundred followers to what were about 1,200 before the lawsuit was reported last week].

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