from the chirp dept
Way back in the simpler time of 2010, Mike wrote up an interesting piece on Twitter’s trademark enforcement policies and how it handles third parties that interact with Twitter using Twitter-related terms. In short, Twitter built a reputation for itself in freely licensing these terms for use by third parties, believing that tools that made Twitter more useful were good for the platform overall. It was a smart, productive way of looking at protecting trademarks so as not to lose them to genericide.
Which is part of what makes it sort of strange that Twitter seems to take the opposite tact when it comes to totally unrelated business entities attempting to trademark terms like “tweet.”
On Friday, Twitter filed a notice of opposition before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board against applicant Puerto Rican company B. Fernandez & Hnos.’s application for the TWEET mark, asserting that it will be harmed if the applicant’s mark is registered.
Twitter pointed out that the messages on its platform are called tweets. The marks are used in connection with the aforementioned goods and services, along with other goods and services. Twitter argued that it has established extensive common law rights in the TWEET mark in connection with its goods and services and that the TWEET mark is distinctive.
There’s no doubt that “tweet” has taken on fame as a result of Twitter’s platform, trademarks, and marketing of itself. But there is still a matter of actual or potential customer confusion on specific uses to contend with and the problem with that is that B. Fernandez & Hnos. is a maker of bird food. In that context, the term “tweet” doesn’t call back to Twitter at all, because it fits naturally in with the nature of the product in question.
For some reason, Twitter’s opposition seems to think the opposite.
Twitter claimed that the applicant seeks to register the TWEET mark in International Class 31, covering bird food. However, Twitter alleged that “consumers will likely associate Applicant’s TWEET Mark with Twitter and the TWEET Goods and Service and will assume there is a relationship between Applicant and Twitter. Twitter asserted that the applicant’s TWEET mark is identical to its TWEET mark, would be “advertised and/or sold in identical or similar channels of trade as Twitter’s and Services”, and would “conflict with Twitter’s lawful and exclusive right to use the TWEET Mark nationwide in connection with Twitter’s Goods and Services.” Consequently, Twitter averred that this similarity is likely to cause consumer confusion, mistake or deception regarding the source, origin, or sponsorship of the respective goods and services.
In other words, Twitter’s “tweet” is so famous that a brand of bird food that includes “tweet” will be seen as associated more with Twitter than with bird food. And that’s plainly ridiculous.
And so, again, we’re left with a company that acts quite good on one set of trademark issues, but is, at least, a bit overly aggressive on others.