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Instagram last week launched a new short-video feature called Reels — capitalizing on demand in the market amid privacy concerns surrounding TikTok and a looming ban of the ByteDance-owned app — and it’s already facing troubles of its own.
ReelzChannel says the feature’s name infringes on its longstanding trademark. The network, which launched in 2006, says it reaches more than 50 million homes in the U.S. The suit, which was filed Tuesday in Minnesota federal court, where the network’s parent company Hubbard Broadcasting is based, claims Reels usurps Reelz’ goodwill and is likely to confuse consumers.
Instagram’s Reels is a new feature within the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing app that allows users to shoot, edit and post 15-second videos set to clips of music or other audio. It launched on Aug. 5 as the latest entry in the race to beat TikTok, which exploded in popularity amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and now boasts 100 million users in the U.S.
“Unless stopped, Facebook’s and Instagram’s pervasive use of ‘Reels’ will completely swamp the distinctive brand identity that Plaintiffs have built up for their own, pre-existing REELZ® media services,” states the complaint. “Plaintiffs’ REELZ® network is one of the last truly independent television networks remaining in today’s media landscape, dominated by corporate giants, and has gained a reputation as an independent voice, picking up and exhibiting content that more mainstream networks felt was ‘too hot to touch.'”
Reelz is suing for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition, among other state law claims. It’s seeking an injunction banning Instagram and Facebook from using Reels and damages in an amount to be determined. (Read the full complaint below.)
Instagram has not yet responded to a request for comment.