On August 11, 2020, Hubbard Broadcasting service filed litigation against Facebook (and its subsidiary, Instagram) with Minnesota’s district court. The plaintiff has initiated the lawsuit on trademark infringement and unfair competition that might lead to some permanent harm. According to the lawsuit, the video feature of Instagram (Reels) is an infringement on the trademark of Hubbard’s Reelz, which is a satellite and cable TV network in the US.

The Complaint Summary

Hubbard said that Facebook-owned Instagram launched their video-making feature Reels, early August, knowing the fact that Reelz existed as a longstanding trademark in the US. The complaint says that the defendants have preponed the launch of Reels to bank on the current popularity and goodwill of Reelz amongst US citizens.

The plaintiff says that the infringed trademark would create confusion among people, and consumers would relate Instagram’s Reels to the satellite TV services. This lawsuit is as interesting as the recent trademark infringement case of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Hubbard has demanded a jury trial where they seek to have a complete ban on Instagram’s Reels feature and thereby decide on the damage compensation.

What are Instagram’s Reels?

Instagram Reels is a new addition to the Facebook-owned photo/video sharing application. With Reels, users can shoot, edit, and upload a 15-second video with some audio or background music. This feature was launched to compete against the highly popular Chinese application TikTok since its launch Reels have gained huge popularity from users across the world.


Origin of REELZ TV Network

This family-owned St. Paul-based broadcasting service started way back in 1923. They started with a radio station and finally launched KSTP-TV in the year 1948. In was in 2006 when Reelz came out and became a popular satellite TV service. According to Hubbard, their Reelz TV network serving more than 50 million homes in the US.

Case of David and Goliath

The lawsuit is not a matter of ‘Z’ vs. ‘S’ behind the word ‘Reel.’ The plaintiff has cited this case as another classic David vs. Goliath event, where the big corporate houses crush their tiny competitors in the market. Hubbard says that their Reelz is one of the only independent TV networks operating in the US, where corporate giants are now dominating the entire landscape.

Hubbard highlighted the importance of independent business and that the freedom of innovation and thoughts must be kept alive. Facebook has a 23% market share in the digital advertising space in the US. It generated total revenue of 70 billion USD last year from digital ads. The plaintiff feels that they have come under the enormous shadow of Facebook, which infringes on their brand identity.

This is not the first time such incidences have happened. Way back in 2003, Minneapolis’ Amazon Bookstore Collective sued Amazon. Amazon fought the case in court and had settled for some compensation for the bookstore (unspecified amount).

The Reels vs. Reelz lawsuit has attracted attention across the US and the globe, and everyone is eagerly waiting for the suit to unfold itself. As of now, Instagram or its owner Facebook has not responded to the lawsuit.