Corporate Eye

Twitter, Tweet, Trademark, and Lessons Learned

This week, Twitter settled a lawsuit to secure the trademark for “tweet.” Back in 2009, Twittad, a company that provides sponsored advertising on Twitter (e.g., a Twitter user publishes a tweet with an advertiser’s message in it), secured the tweet trademark as part of its tagline, “Let your ad meet tweets.” Twitter claimed that the term “tweet” had already become a popular term that users created to refer to their published Twitter updates, and Twittad’s use of the term would cause consumer confusion.

Until Monday, Twitter wasn’t having much success in securing the trademark to tweet from Twittad, but a confidential agreement was finally made, and Twitter should get the trademark for tweet that it’s wanted for so long.

The lesson to learn is this — always secure trademarks related to your brand, business, and company. Think big and do your due diligence. Don’t pick a brand name that another company in your industry already uses. That’s what happened to Apple when it launched the iPhone (Cisco originally owned the trademark for iPhone) and IBM when it realized a small computer company owned the trademark for Big Blue.

Trademark applications aren’t difficult to complete and the cost is minimal. It’s worth the time, effort, and money to research potential brand names for availability and any potential problems before you spend even more time and money rolling out a brand that turns out to be a trademark infringement.

It’s fairly safe to assume that Twittad received some compensation from Twitter to settle the trademark lawsuit and give the rights to the tweet trademark to Twitter. That’s what happened to Apple when it got the iPhone trademark from Cisco, and that’s a position you don’t want to find yourself, your company, or your brand.

Brand equity is a powerful business asset. You wouldn’t risk other business assets by skipping steps to protect them, and you shouldn’t skip those steps with your brand either. Step 1 — make sure you can trademark your brand name!

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.