Facebook yanks URL until Mercks agree who gets it

Facebook has apologized to both Mercks for a page-rights snafu--but beyond that, it's treating the drugmakers like squabbling children. Like a parent breaking up a fight over a favorite toy, Facebook says no one gets the www.facebook.com/merck URL until the two companies settle the tug-of-war among themselves.

The issue arose last week, when Germany's Merck KGaA sued Facebook, saying the social network had allowed U.S.-based Merck & Co. ($MRK) onto its turf. The German Merck claimed it had an exclusive contract for that page--dated March 2010--but discovered the U.S. company was using it. After news of the suit broke, Facebook said the mix-up was "due to an administrative error."

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," Facebook said in a statement. But until the two Mercks agree which company can control the URL, Facebook plans to take that page off its site.

If Facebook was confused by the dual Mercks, then it's not alone. The two companies once were one, but after World War I, split into a German-based firm and U.S. one, each with rights to the Merck name.

How intensely the two might jostle over the rights to that "vanity URL" remains to be seen. A Merck & Co. spokesman told Reuters the company intends to have a Facebook page and that it is "continuing to look into the matter of the vanity URL." In an echo worthy of their twin names, Merck KGaA spokesman Gangolf Schrimpf told Network World that his Merck is also looking into the matter.

- get more from the court documents filed with the NY Supreme Court (.pdf)
- read the Reuters news
- get more from Network World