Twitter and Twittad have settled their dispute over the word “tweet,” though Twittad will retain the right to use the tagline, “Let your ad meet tweets.”
Twitter has been trying to trademark “tweet” since April 2009; problem is, two startups got there with variations of the word first. Twittad is a display advertisement service for Twitter users. After their own application to trademark “tweet” was twice rejected, Twitter filed suit against Twittad LLC in Northern California U.S. District Court.
They claimed that because the word “tweet” was famous before Twittad filed their trademark application, the term rightfully belonged to Twitter. In addition, Twitter believed the smaller company’s use of “tweet” in their trademarked tagline was blocking Twitter’s own registration and use of the term. Twittad’s James Eliason argued that users came up with the term “tweet,” and therefore it was open season.
The two have now settled out of court, though a confidentiality agreement prevents them from disclosing whether any money exchanged hands. Under the deal reported by The Wall Street Journal yesterday, Twitter will drop the lawsuit and Twittad will transfer the registered trademark of “tweet” to Twitter. Twitter will also reinstate Twittad’s Twitter account, which they suspended during the trademark argument.
Twitter has also challenged the trademark application of digital bookmarking company Krumlr, who filed to trademark “TweetMarks” in 2009. The service allows users to bookmark web pages users tweeted. Peter Wingard, Krumlr’s owner, claims he is also blocked from using Twitter and that the social media giant refused to settle last year for $50,000. Twitter’s opposition to Krumlr’s application is still pending and Krumlr continues to use the trademarked term on their website.
In 2009, then-CEO Biz Stone wrote on the Twitter blog 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.”
While Twittad is not necessarily in danger of being confused with Twitter, it may be damaging to Twitter’s ad revenue; they are serving up ads of their own and hoping to cash in on the expansion of Promoted Tweets.