Twitter Says It's Okay To 'Tweet', Not So Cool To 'Twitter'

Responding to an article written over at TechCrunch, Twitter has addressed concerns about the use of the words ‘tweet’ and ‘Twitter’ in external applications, both of which are contextual trademarks owned by the San Francisco start-up.

Biz Stone says on the Twitter blog:

The ecosystem growing around Twitter is something we very much believe in nourishing and supporting. There are lots of really awesome services and applications out there like TweetDeck, TweetMeme, Tweetie, BackTweets, Tweetboard, and others that we absolutely love as do many users. However, as the ecosystem grows there is also the possibility that confusing and potentially damaging projects could emerge.

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.

Regarding the use of the word Twitter in projects, we are a bit more wary although there are some exceptions here as well. After all, Twitter is the name of our service and our company so the potential for confusion is much higher. When folks ask us about naming their application with “Twitter” we generally respond by suggesting more original branding for their project. This avoids potential confusion down the line.

Note that even though Biz says there are “some exceptions” regarding the use of Twitter, he doesn’t actually go as far as stating what these might be. There are several established applications that use the Twitter name – Twitterberry, Twitterrific and TinyTwitter, to name just a few. Stone states that Twitter has no intention of “going after” applications that use the word tweet, but again isn’t exactly crystal clear about their plans regarding Twitter.

And it’s not just applications, either – what about blogs and websites? In case you hadn’t noticed, this blog uses Twitter in its name. As do EverythingTwitter, Business on Twitter, Twittermaven, Twitterface, Twitterstop and Twitterfall. Is there a chance that some or all of these might fall into Biz’s sights? And if they start shoving the lawyers in our face, what’s that going to do to their image? And userbase?

It would seem likely that unless an existing website or application seriously infringed upon Twitter’s trademarks and design or interface then it’s probably going to be left alone. Even the mostly critical and sarcastic ones (like, uh, that other guy).

Going forward, however, one should perhaps assume that a lot of projects – certainly those that are ‘Twitter’-related in both concept and name – are inevitably going to face resistance, particularly if they want to get their hands on a bigger slice of Twitter’s precious API.