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Monday, July 22, 2024

Why Twitter’s rebrand to X could be legally challenging

Twitter owner Elon Musk’s campaign to rebrand the bird-themed social media platform to X is well underway — but trademarking the new brand and protecting it from legal challenges may be a bumpier process.

The letter X is commonly cited in trademarks, meaning it is possible the website formerly known as Twitter could be accused of infringing upon another company’s intellectual property, trademark attorney Josh Gerben told Reuters.

“There’s a 100% chance that Twitter is going to get sued over this by somebody,” Gerben said.

Nearly 900 companies have filed trademark registrations involving the letter X in the U.S. alone, including tech behemoths Meta and Microsoft, he told the publication.

Registering a trademark allows a company to prevent third parties from “marketing identical or similar products or services under an identical or confusingly similar” name, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. A company that infringes on a trademark may face fines or be blocked from further use of the infringing articles, the United States Patent and Trademark website shows.

Musk rechristened Twitter as X over the weekend, an apparent throwback to his work on website X.com, which eventually became PayPal. The new logo, which was crowdsourced, is a black and white version of the letter X rendered in an art deco style, Musk said in a tweet on Sunday.

“And soon we shall bid adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds,” Musk said in another tweet that same day.

The simplicity of the logo, however, may make the microblog’s brand more difficult to protect, Douglas Masters, a trademark attorney at law firm Loeb & Loeb, told Reuters.

“The logo does not have much [that is] distinctive about it, so the protection will be very narrow,” Masters said. “Given the difficulty in protecting a single letter, especially one as popular commercially as ‘X’, Twitter’s protection is likely to be confined to very similar graphics to their X logo.”

Insider noted that the new X logo also resembles a generic Unicode character and has been used in mathematical textbooks since the 1970s.

Twitter users have also criticized the website’s rebranding, drawing comparisons between its new logo and that of several adult film websites.

The rebrand comes as Twitter struggles with declining user traffic, a loss of half of its top advertisers and employee attrition. The website is saddled with roughly $13 billion worth of debt it took on during its acquisition by Musk, which was finalized in October 2022.

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