08 August 2023 • 5 min read
share this blog
Twitter has drastically changed since Elon Musk took over the social media platform in late 2022. The latest is a rebrand, which includes changing its name and iconic logo of a flying white bird on a blue background to the letter "X." Could this little letter spell trademark troubles for Twitter's new logo and rebrand?
On 23 July 2023, Musk announced the departure of the original Twitter brand and logo. Though this came as a surprise to most, a big move like this was not entirely unexpected. The launch of Meta Platforms' Threads app earlier this month was seen as an existential threat to Twitter. So some changes to Twitter were on the cards.
But doing away with a brand so popular it became a verb was not what most people saw coming.
Introducing the new X logo and brand CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted (or "X" ed now?):
“X is the future state of unlimited interactivity — centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking — creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we're just beginning to imagine.”
But could this vision be marred by a spate of legal challenges for the company? Let's take a closer look and find out.
One of CEO Linda Yaccarino's posts announcing the launch of the new Twitter logo and brand also said, “There's absolutely no limit to this transformation. X will be the platform that can deliver, well…. Everything.”
This seems to be a throwback to Elon Musk's early days in Silicon Valley. The tech billionaire has often discussed an "everything" app called "X" that offers audio, video, messaging, and even digital payments. What nobody expected was that Twitter, one of the world's largest social media platforms, would become that.
On the day the new X logo was launched, Elon Musk also posted, “Not sure what subtle clues gave it way, but I like the letter X.”
That might be an understatement.
Elon Musk co-founded an online bank called "X.com in 1999. This company later merged with another start-up in 2000 to form what would eventually become PayPal.
And his love for the letter is apparent in all his later ventures - SpaceX, xAI, X Corp., and now X (Twitter).
But sentiment and ideas are only one part of the story, albeit the more romantic one. Where does X stand in terms of intellectual property rights?
A trademark is a form of intellectual property federally registered and thus protected by law. In the US, all trademark registrations are made with the USPTO, which states:
“A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.”
Since "X" is technically a symbol, it does qualify for trademark registration. The problem may be the opposite. Too many people using the mark across industries may pose legal issues if they dispute Twitter's new logo.
No, not yet.
Microsoft has owned an X logo trademark since 2003 for its Xbox gaming console. Meta Platforms registered its federal trademark in 2019 for a blue-and-white letter X logo for several functions, including software and social media.
And this is why Elon Musk's choice of X for the new Twitter logo and brand has surprised many. Given how common it is, it may not have much protection regarding intellectual property rights.
Trademark attorney Derrick Davis often tells his clients, “Don't fall in love with a name that's more trouble than it's worth.”
This may be precisely what Elon Musk has done.
But Derrick also adds, “People typically do not seek names in and of themselves, but the brand values conveyed by those names. Goodwill--which is the essence of trademarks--is generated based on public perception, and a virtually infinite number of terms, symbols, or other source identifiers could describe the product or service in question.”
Will that be enough for X minus Twitter?
Though it may seem like trouble at first glance, the generic nature of the X logo may actually end up being Twitter's (now X) protection.
The advantage is that a generic trademark makes it a little hard for other players to prove infringement. As so many people have officially registered it as a trademark, "exclusivity" and "customer confusion" arguments won't hold much weight.
The disadvantage is that the same will also be true for Twitter (now X). The protection for the new logo and brand will be fairly narrow. Any trademarks Musks registers in the future will only protect the exact design and nothing else.
Twitter's rebrand marks the end of an era for one of the world's biggest and most popular tech companies. Musk is giving up the Twitter brand and may gradually lose the equity it built up since 2006.
Reflecting the ire and confusion of many long-time Twitter users, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill tweeted, "Has everybody seen the (eXecrable) new logo?" accompanied by #ByeByeBirdie and #TaTaTwitter.
It's a big gamble to take with a user base of 368 million monthly active users worldwide.
Trademark attorney Derrick Davis thinks it's too early to tell if it'll pay off. He says, "The real question is, why walk away from an established, globally recognized brand in favor of a prospective brand with so much uncertainty? Elon is a risk taker, and historically, many of those risks have played out in his favor. Do I think his IP counsel green-lit the rebrand? Probably not. But do IP lawyers always see the forest for the trees? Definitely not. Time will tell whether this is another "Tesla" or another "Teslaquila."
share this blog
Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.
Victory for Sam Smith in IP lawsuit
11 September 2023 • 4 min read
OnlyFans Consulting Firm Faces Trade Sec...
04 September 2023 • 4 min read
TI & Tiny's $100M legal battle against M...
30 August 2023 • 4 min read
Supreme Court Rules Against Andy Warhol ...
29 August 2023 • 5 min read
A Win for Small Businesses: How Katy Per...
28 August 2023 • 2 min read