What just happened? Not for the first time, Facebook parent Meta is being accused of stealing its name from a company that used it years before the social media giant's rebranding in 2021. This time, an installation-art company registered as MetaX LLC, known as META or Meta.is, is the accuser, and has launched a trademark infringement lawsuit to take back the name.

Facebook went all-in on its plans for the metaverse, changing its corporate name to Meta last October. But it seems Mark Zuckerberg either didn't know or didn't care that the trademark was already in use.

MetaX LLC, a company whose immersive installations use technologies such as augmented and virtual reality and have appeared at events including Coachella, this week announced it has launched a lawsuit against Facebook/Meta.

MetaX LLC's suit states that the company was founded in 2010, and it applied to trademark its name in 2016. That application was granted in 2020. "On October 28, 2021, Facebook seized our META mark and name, which we put our blood, sweat, and tears into building for over twelve years," the company writes.

MetaX says it has spent about eight months trying to negotiate with Facebook but to no avail, leaving it with no other option than to take legal action. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook infringed META's federally registered trademarks and common law trademark rights and engaged in egregious acts of unfair competition. It also claims that its business has been "crushed" by Facebook.

The suit says the many privacy and other scandals that have plagued Facebook for years have made it impossible for the two companies to share the name. "…consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Meta's goods and services emanate from Facebook and that Meta is associated with the toxicity that is inextricably linked with Facebook," states the filing.

MetaX also claims that Facebook was well aware of the company's existence before its name change. Founder Justin JB Bolognino says he exchanged emails with senior Facebook employees in 2017 that resulted in "further discussion about Meta's products and services, leading Facebook to solicit Meta to collaborate with Facebook on future work."

The lawsuit says Facebook's response to Bolognino's letter expressing concerns that having the same name as the social media firm could harm his company was to point out that they both provide drastically different goods and services.

MetaX wants an injunction that will stop Meta from using the Meta name. It is also seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

Meta PCs' trademark application

If the story sounds very familiar, that's because it's not the first time Meta's been in this position. We heard last year that an Arizona firm called Meta PCs that sells laptops, accessories, and customized rigs had applied for the Meta trademark in August 2021. It told Zuckerberg he could buy the name from the company for $20 million, but it appears Meta never handed over the money.