X marks the spot – or does it?
Elon Musk announced that Twitter’s distinctive, iconic bird logo is being replaced by an ‘X’ – the latest in a long line of controversial decisions the billionaire has made since acquiring the platform.
The rationale behind the change? Musk tweeted that the Twitter name made sense when the platform was used to send 140-character messages back and forth, similar to birds tweeting, but now any type of content can be posted without such limitations. As a result, the Twitter name no longer makes sense. Tweets will now be known as ‘x’s’ and the app will be used for everything, including messaging, payments, and a marketplace, similar to China’s WeChat. The sign at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco has been replaced, and conference rooms have already been renamed to incorporate the letter ‘X’ into them.
Rebranding the platform poses two immediate, significant challenges:
- There is considerable goodwill in the name and the iconic blue bird logo. The name ‘Twitter’ has become so engrained in society that the public has even adopted the term ‘tweet’ as a verb. With the name and function of the platform changing, the question arises as to whether subscribers will stick around and adjust to these changes or if they will leave the platform altogether; and
- There may be trademark infringement issues associated with the new name. At the time of writing this article, there are no US trade mark applications yet by X Corp. for the mark ‘X’, but there are many earlier registrations by third parties for trade marks containing the letter ‘X’, either on its own or in conjunction with other words. Some of these are in overlapping classes, which means that, once the application for ‘X’ is filed and published, third parties will look to oppose it on the basis that it is a similar mark for similar services and is likely to cause confusion. This, in turn, may mean that Musk’s company will have to negotiate a licence or coexistence agreement with them or even buy their trade mark. If Musk doesn’t do so and a third party is able to prove infringement, then his company is likely to be on the receiving end of an account of profits or an injunction to stop them from using the trade mark.
What will actually happen remains to be seen, but Musk has no doubt taken a significant risk by replacing a well-known brand with a new brand and an entirely new service.
This article was first published in Tech+, a newsletter from our tech and innovation team designed to help readers unpack complex topics in the tech space and keep up-to-date with the changes across this rapidly evolving sector. Be the first to receive the next edition and subscribe here.