Posted July 2, 2009 8:53 am by with 7 comments

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Twitter is attempting to gain some kind of control of the use of "Twitter" and "Tweet" in a way that reminds me of Google’s attempt back in 2006.

TechCrunch got its hand on an email that was sent out to one Twitter app developer:


Twitter, Inc is uncomfortable with the use of the word Tweet (our trademark) and the similarity in your UI and our own. How can we go about having you change your UI to better differentiate your offering from our own?


That prompted an official response from Twitter’s chief of damage control Biz Stone. The use of "Twitter" appears to be pretty much off limits, but his comments about using "Tweet" have me puzzled:

We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of "going after" the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

I’m not a trademark attorney–if you are, correct me if I am wrong–but if you register a trademark, aren’t you obliged to police it? I was under the impression that if you didn’t prevent others from using your trademark, you risked losing the protections granted by its registration.

If that is the case, maybe third-party application developers should be worried after all.

In addition, the above sentiment is how Twitter feels about the situation today, but what about in five years from now? What if it’s acquired by Google or News Corp–and they have a more stringent policy on the use of their trademarks?

One blog post does not make a legal exemption. I’d be careful of your use of Twitter or Tweet if your product can in any way be confused as an official company offering.

  • thanksss

  • “I’m not a trademark attorney–if you are, correct me if I am wrong–but if you register a trademark, aren’t you obliged to police it?”

    I don’t think there’s an *obligation.* I worked as a private eye shortly after college and my job was to investigate trademarks filed by many companies; a LOT of companies actually do NOT utilize this service.

    I think it was a poor choice to file a trademark for “Tweet” given that there are already products on the market. This is iffy territory since there’s an apparent conflict of interest here despite Biz’s remarks.

    Tamar Weinberg’s last blog post..Announcing the Newest Social Media Prince

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  • Tim

    I can understand “Twitter” as a trademark, but “Tweet” is a fairly common word. I’m not an attorney either but it seems that a word so commonly used would be difficult to trademark.

    Another question would be what happens to the current sites and apps that use the word “tweet” in the domain or business name? Would they be forced to change their name and/or forfeit their domain names? This could get interesting!

  • Ever heard the song “Rockin Robin”? tweet..tweet. Now some new startup (in a very big way) wants to

    own the word tweet. This can only happen in America. From an englishmans piont of view,these people

    should be paying us royalties for the whole use of “our” language.

  • Tim

    “…should be paying us royalties for the whole use of “our” language”

    Classic – Now I’ve heard it all 😀