Transfer Pricing Associates

Twitter Wins the Right to Tweet

post Saturday October 22, 2011



The social networking site Twitter gained its claim to fame by allowing users to “tweet” 140-character messages that are visible to any other user, but it wasn’t until this past week that Twitter was legally able to use the “tweet” trademark.  While even the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “tweet” as "a post made on the Twitter online message service", it is the advertising service provider, Twittad, who has been the rightful “tweet” owner since 2008. 

Twittad is a service that provides Twitter users the ability to display advertisements on their user profiles.  In July 2008, Twittad applied to trademark the phrase "Let Your Ad Meet Tweets" and obtained registration a year later after nobody opposed it. 

In 2009, once Twitter got wind of the trademark application filed by Twittad, Twitter claimed that it would take action to protect the meaning of “tweet” as to avoid any confusion for its users.  In its legal filings, Twitter claimed that it is the rightful owner of “tweet” since the term was already famous as a Twitter term before Twittad filed the trademark application.  Twitter made the case to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that if Twittad was owner of the “tweet” trademark, this would block Twitter from its “legitimate use of its own mark”.  Even with these arguments, however, the USPTO twice suspended Twitter’s attempts to trademark the term.       

Twittad’s business is built on a network of 27,000 Twitter users whom it paid to tweet advertisements from other companies that hired Twittad to handle its Twitter advertising.  So, during the trademark battle, Twitter closed Twittad's account, which effectively froze business for the web start-up until this past week when the two companies reached a settlement.

It is unclear whether the settlement reached between the two companies over use of the trademark is one involving payment from Twitter to Twittad as the two have signed a confidentiality agreement masking the details.  But one thing is for sure, this will certainly be the last time Twitter forgets to file a trademark application.  

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