Back in July 2009, Twitter made a big stink about developers using the term “Tweet” in their Twitter apps. The Twitter API team had contacted a third-party developer—TweetKnot—informing the company that it had “grown uncomfortable” about the use of the word “tweet” in the app’s name. That was before the company effectively secured the trademark with the USPTO, notably.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone promptly clarified the situation in a blog post, stating that it has “no intention of ‘going after’ the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter.”
That may well be, but it isn’t stopping Twitter from continuing to try and get the mark registered in the United States.
On Thursday, August 26, 2010, Twitter apparently filed a U.S. federal trademark registration for TWEET, in connection with computer software, online advertising and marketing services, business data analysis and more.
From what I can tell, someone actually owns the trademark for ‘tweet’ in the US, namely Paul Rosario. The description provided to the USPTO is automatic fluid-composition control machines and instruments, electromechanical controls for use in bird remediation / pest control etc., so not exactly related to Twitter users’ understanding of the term.
Strangely, the company also filed a new trademark application for “Twitter” on the same date (August 26). The reason I think that’s weird is because Twitter had already filed for the trademark back in April 2007, and from what I can gather it was effectively registered under their name in May 2009. Perhaps they’d like to include other classes this time (update: that’s indeed the reason, as Twitter just confirmed to me in an email).
For what it’s worth, I also checked trademark registrations in Europe and noticed Twitter already owns both “twitter” and “tweet” there.
I’ve asked Twitter for clarification and whether or not the company plans to use the trademark against owners and developers of Twitter applications and services with (one of) both terms in their product or company names. It’s the middle of the night in California, but I’ll update the post as soon as I get a response.
Update: a Twitter spokesperson says:
“We freely license “Tweet” for ecosystem partners who are using it correctly as part of accessing the Twitter API. That said, “Tweet” means something specific and we aim to protect that meaning. More on this can be found here: http://support.twitter.com/forums/26257/entries/77641.”