Trademark Application Battle with Twitter Forces Twitpic Shut Down

Twitpic-logoBefore 2006 to tweet was something only birds did. Now tweeting is pretty much ubiquitous. One of the 10 most popular sites on the internet, Twitter has changed culture and the way people experience the world. News outlets are typically no longer the first to break news, with eyewitnesses relaying near real-time updates through Twitter. With such widespread use, Twitter has become a highly recognizable brand. As such, the group is taking measures to protect its name and unfortunately for a former symbiotic partner, it may become a casualty.

Twitpic is a service that lets users share pictures via Twitter. The company launched in 2008 and gained prominence during the emergency plane landing in the Hudson River. Passengers broke the news through Twitter and used Twitpic to share photos. As Twitter expanded, so did Twitpic. What was good for one, was good for the other. That was until 2011, when Twitter launched its own photo-sharing application and began competing with Twitpic.

Before their competition began however, Twitpic took steps to obtain a trademark registration. The name Twitpic seemed like a natural fit and pretty self-explanatory. The group originally filed a trademark application on the brand in 2009. After nearly four years, the application went abandoned after it was rejected based on a likelihood of confusion with several other “Twit” based trademark applications.

Not to be deterred, Twitpic again filed a trademark application on its name in 2013. This time it was able to overcome the Trademark Office’s likelihood of confusion rejections. The trademark application was published for opposition in June of 2014. This publication attracted the attention of Twitter, which filed an opposition to the application. Twitter is the owner of multiple trademark registrations surrounding the Twitter brand. Twitter claims that it told Twitpic it could continue using the name, but wouldn’t allow a trademark registration on Twitpic, which could jeopardize the strength of its own trademark registrations.

Twitpic claims that during the opposition period Twitter threatened to cut off Twitpic’s access to Twitter’s application programming interface if it did not abandon its trademark application. Cutting off access to Twitter’s API would kill Twitpic. Twitpic announced that it will be shutting down because it lacks the resources to fight off Twitter’s trademark application challenge. There may be more to this story of former synergistic companies than just a trademark battle, but this underscores how valuable a brand and the associated trademark rights can be.

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