Twitter fails to trademark “tweet” – app developers celebrate

August 20, 2009

Twitter fails to trademark "tweet" - app developers celebrateIf you’re a Twitter user then you tweet on a regular basis. Unless you’re like me, who cannot keep up with all the social media sites, and so tweets on a semi-regular basis. But regardless of how often you tweet, tweet is what you do. Unfortunately for Twitter, it doesn’t hold the trademark for the word, despite applying for it and claiming last month that it did indeed hold it.

There was much hand-wringing at the beginning of last month when Twitter announced it had applied to trademark the word “tweet”. Why wouldn’t it, you may ask, as both the word tweet and the action to tweet are closely attached to Twitter. The problem is all those Twitter apps and spin-off companies that also use the word tweet.

Twitter founder Biz Stone announced the company’s application for the trademark of “tweet” in a blog post on July 1. According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents found by blogger Sam Johnston, the trademark application had actually been placed on April 16, almost three months before the company happened to mention it to a wider audience.

What’s more, the application was turned down that same day. In fact, it looks as though the USPTO acted in response to the publicizing of the application because after 10 weeks of doing absolutely nothing, it rejected the application for tweet to be trademarked just hours after Stone published the blog post.

The reason for the rejection is because three companies has applied for trademarks containing the word tweet prior to Twitter submitting theirs. Those companies being TweetMarks, Cotweet, and Tweetphoto.

What makes this whole saga slightly controversial is the emailed request Twitter sent (as discovered by TechCrunch) to a developer asking the company to find a new name and user interface because it too closely resembled Twitter’s own. The email insisted, “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?”

Unfortunately for Twitter, the claim that Tweet was a trademark belonging to it was a complete fabrication, or at the very least a show of a misplaced and mistimed confidence that Twitter would be successful in its application.

App developers will be pleased to hear this result as tweet can now be used by all and sundry to ensure their software is closely associated with Twitter. As for the rest of us, well we’ll just carry on tweeting regardless.

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