Twits at Twitter Forgot to Trademark 'Tweet' - The UpStream

Twits at Twitter Forgot to Trademark 'Tweet'

posted Sunday Sep 11, 2011 by Jon Wurm

Twits at Twitter Forgot to Trademark 'Tweet'

In the effort of fairness, Twitter forgetting to trademark "Tweet" happened before Dick Costolo took the reins and began trying to turn Twitter into an actual business. However it doesn't excuse this oversight or the way Twitter is trying to get rights to the "Let Your Ad Meet Tweets" trademark that is held by none other than Twittad.

They are a 3rd party integration partner that utilizes the Twitter API to perpetuate it's pay-per-tweet advertisement model allowing users to make money off their tweets. Recently, Twitter's treatment of 3rd party integration partners hasn't exactly been conducive with maintaining healthy relationships seeing as how they pulled a lot of API tokens. Now, add suing one over their own stupidity to the list and you've got a funny, yet not very surprising situation to read and write about. The delightful details of this almost but not quite trademark dispute can be found after the break.

While Twitter is disputing the Twittad's use of "Let Your Ad Meet Tweets" they actually don't have any trademark at all with regards to the word "Tweet" and therefore can't technically dispute it. So what are they doing? They are suing Twittad with hopes of getting their trademark registration cancelled despite the fact that Twittad's trademark was approved in 2008 before the term "tweet" was commonly used with regards to Twitter. James Eliason stated that,

We firmly stand by our position of the legitimacy of the trademark due to the fact that our mark was cleared by the Trademark office in 2008.

The complaint as filed by Twitter is as follows,

This action arises from the registration of the mark "LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS" by Twittad, LLC ("Twittad" or "Defendant") in connection with online advertising services for use on Twitter. Defendant's LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS registration unfairly exploits the widespread association by the consuming public of the mark TWEET with Twitter, and threatens to block Twitter from its registration and legitimate uses of its own mark.

In fact, it appears that Defendant has used LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS solely as a generic phrase to refer advertising in connection with Twitter itself, and as such it is incapable of serving as a mark, rendering the registration subject cancellation on that ground. Alternatively, if Defendant is able to establish use of LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS as a mark, its registration is subject to cancellation based on Twitter's preexisting rights in the TWEET mark.

Accordingly, Twitter seeks cancellation of Twittad's LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS trademark registration under the Lanham Act 15 U.S.C. § 1052(d), § 1064 and § 1119.

Apparently Twitter has made several attempts to resolve this in the past and even asked Twittad to transfer the trademark rights to them, just because. Since that didn't seem to work they have now adopted what I call the "because I said so" approach to trademark disputing. Basically, because everyone associates they term with their service, they deserve to have the rights, even though they dropped the ball. Since they claim that the term is most well-known with regards to their service, saying that 3rd parties using the term will create confusion seems to contradict their reasoning which was reiterated to Tech Crunch in this statement.

Twitter's organic growth has taken many forms, including a widespread, dictionary-documented association of the word 'Tweet' with the use of Twitter. It is in the best interests of our users and developers for the meaning of 'Tweet' to be preserved to prevent any confusion, so we are taking action to protect its meaning.

We'll keep you plugged in as the story continues to develop.

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