Twitter is taking ad network Twittad to court to try and invalidate Twittad’s US trademark “Let your ad meet tweets”.  The move follows several rejected applications by Twitter to register a US trademark for the word “Tweet”, the latest of which was rejected on the basis that Twittad’s existing mark was too similar.  

Brand owners wishing to avoid trade mark disputes are encouraged to seek early trade mark registration. Remember that registration can be sought before the mark is used provided there is a genuine intention to use it

Twitter has also issued revised trademark guidelines in the last year.  Amongst other things, the updated guidelines require that references to “Twitter” and “Tweet” are capitalised and prohibit the use of “Twitter” in the name of third party websites and applications.

Active management of your registered trade mark portfolio is important to preserve their value.  A mark which becomes the common name for a product or service can be revoked on the grounds that it has become generic.  This is a fate that has befallen a number of once proprietary brands, such as “linoleum” and “escalator”.

The use in common parlance of terms such as “Google” and “Tweet” as verbs doesn’t necessarily mean that they are destined to become generic, provided they both remain strongly associated with the services provided by Google and Twitter and are not used as general descriptions for searching the internet or sending an message on a social networking site.

The use of trademark guidelines (backed by prompt infringement action where necessary) acts as a method for trade mark owners to put third parties on notice about appropriate use of their trade marks and prevent brand dilution.