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The German drugmaker Merck KGaA has begun legal action against Facebook after discovering what its lawyer described as the “the apparent takeover of its Facebook page”.

The webpage is being used by the German firm’s US rival Merck & Co.

Merck KGaA said that the social network “is an important marketing device [and] the page is of great value”, adding that since its competitor was benefiting from the move “time is of the essence.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “We are looking into it.”

Merck KGaA said it had entered into an agreement with Facebook for the exclusive rights to in March 2010.

The German firm said a number of its employees had been subsequently assigned administrative rights to the page.

However, Merck KGaA said that when it had checked the site on 11 October this year it had discovered it had lost control of the page, and that content on the site now belonged to Merck & Co.

The two drugmakers both stem from the same firm set up by a pharmacy owner in the German city of Darmstadt in 1668.

The business was split in two after World War I as part of the reparations package imposed on Germany.

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