Los Angeles – Social blogging network Twitter has filed a trademark infringement complaint in a San Francisco district court against Twittad over the use of the trademark ‘tweet.’ Twittad is currently the largest advertising platform operating on Twitter.
Twitter, the micro-blogging service that allows users to post messages called Tweets, has long been trying to register ‘tweet’ as a trademark, however the third-party Twittad beat it to the punch when it registered the slogan “Let your ad meet tweets” in 2009. Just last week, Twitter filed its lawsuit with Twittad with the hopes that it would force the company to give up rights to the trademarked slogan.
In the past, Twitter has been quite lenient with those who use the word ‘tweet.’ Clearly, at the time it published its guidelines regarding the use of its intellectual property, it didn’t realize the future impact that ‘tweet’ would have. Although, late in the game of attempting to register the trademark, Twitter most likely deserves to have exclusive rights to the trademark since it is responsible for the origin of the word in the first place. However, Twitter would have to show that it actually used “Tweet” as a trademark in relation to the goods or services prior to all other users.
Allegations from the Twitter complaint read:
“Defendant’s LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS registration unfairly exploits the widespread association by the consuming public of the trademark TWEET with Twitter, and threatens to block Twitter from its registration and legitimate use of its own trademark. 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 trademark, rendering the registration subject to cancellation on that ground.”
Twitter went on to say that it had placed a “considerable investment” in the word ‘tweet’ and that prior to the company’s launch in 2006, ‘tweet’ was only associated with ‘birdsong’ but since then it has become “widely adopted by consumers and media outlets to refer to Twitter.”
Interestingly, Twittad sells advertising on Twitter by connecting advertisers that are willing to pay per tweet to users who fit its demographic requirements that are willing to be paid to “tweet” sponsored ads. This happens to conflict directly with Twitter’s own Promoted Tweets advertising product, which is most likely the motivation of the lawsuit.