Live

Watch CBSN Live

Instagram hopes garbage app will trash its name

It's something of a David versus Goliath battle -- Facebook-owned Instagram is demanding that a small British mobile app called Littergram drop its name and branding because it sounds a little too close to their own.

The not-for-profit startup behind the Littergram app was founded by Danny Lucas to encourage people to litter less. Like Instagram, Littergram is a photo-sharing mobile app; users can snap and share images of garbage they see outside to promote greater awareness for cleaning up the environment.

Unfortunately for Lucas, Facebook felt the app's name, look, photo-sharing function, and overall branding were too similar to Instagram's. He said Facebook's lawyers gave him a deadline of April 28 to respond to their demands.

Lucas made his case in a video posted on YouTube, addressing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by name:

"Mark, I'm making a personal plea to you, having received a heavy-handed letter from Facebook's lawyer's insisting that we change our brand as we are seen as a threat to the Instagram app," Lucas said in the video posted April 26. Such a move would force his growing environmental initiative "back to square one," he said.

Lucas appealed to Zuckerberg's own philanthropic efforts to "help our planet," and suggested that "instead of spending money on lawyers and eliminating great causes such as Littergram," Zuckerberg could "join forces ... and help take this forward."

Facebook told CBS News that for the past several months, the social media company has been in contact with Littergram to see if the British startup's app did not infringe upon the larger company's trademark. The company said that it was ultimately determined that Littergram was indeed a photo-sharing app that operated in a very similar way to Instagram, leading to the social media giant asking that Lucas change his app's name. But it added that no lawsuit has been filed against Littergram.

Along with his video, Lucas promoted the hashtag #savelittergram. Three days after that initial video, he posted an update and stated that he had not heard "any news yet" from Facebook or Instagram.

Facebook told CBS News that it has experienced a recent pattern of people using "gram" as a way to refer to the popular app, and that it makes sense for the company to take action to prevent its brand from being diluted.

Right now, Littergram is only available to U.K users.