Sorry, No Tweet For You!!!

By Heather Faucher | Posted on September 10, 2009 | Filed Under Trademarks 


Photo: The Inquisitr

Photo: The Inquisitr

So social networking and micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter recently tried to trademark the word “tweet,” the term that many who Twitter use to describe their short, 140-character posts. According to a blog post at the Twitter website, the company decided to apply for the trademark because “it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective”. An interesting claim, since it seems pretty well-established that Twitter users were actually the first to coin the term, rather than the company itself.

I use the term “tried” because the USPTO has preliminarily denied the trademark application. I guess that Internet-using bird-lovers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief now! The USPTO remarked in its rejection that: “marks in prior-filed pending applications may present a bar to registration of applicant’s mark. [...] If the marks in the referenced applications register, applicant’s mark may be refused registration under Trademark Act Section 2(d) because of a likelihood of confusion between the two marks” and went on to reference not one, not two, but three separate trademark applications:

* #77695071 for TWEETMARKS (pending receipt of Statement of Use)
* #77697186 for COTWEET (pending clarification)
* #77701645 for TWEETPHOTO (pending transfer to Supplemental Register).

Apparently, it’s at least partially a matter of, “You snooze, you lose.” The USPTO’s response to Twitter’s trademark application pointed out that that each of the above trademark applications had been filed with its office prior to Twitter’s application. While the USPTO didn’t say with definitive certainty that Twitter would be denied a trademark on the word “Tweet,” that was mostly because the other trademark applications are still pending. If they’re accepted by the USPTO, however, chances are pretty much slim to none that Twitter will be allowed to trademark “Tweet.”

Twitter co-founded Biz Stone earlier wrote on the Twitter that: “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.”

Interesting, since Twitter apparently wrote in an email to a developer that it was “uncomfortable with the use of the word Tweet (our trademark) and the similarity in your UI and our own.” Only one problem. At the time Twitter made that claim, it didn’t own the trademark on “Tweet”–and at this rate, it might never own it in the future, either.

Trademark registration doesn’t have to be difficult. Find out more here.

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