Twitter’s “X” Rebrand May Run Afoul of IP Law

X’s billionaire owner, Elon Musk, who rebranded the social media company Twitter to the single letter, could face intellectual property legal challenges since others like Microsoft and Meta previously claimed rights to the letter.

Additionally, France’s Agence France-Presse (AFP), an international news agency, has begun a copyright infringement case against X in the Paris courts, initially forcing X to hand over data to help determine payments it may owe it for reprinting its news content.

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben predicts others will eventually sue X over the letter because he estimates there are about 900 active trademarks for it in an array of industries.

How Does Trademark Law affect the X / Twitter Rebrand?

Trademarks are intellectual property that protect consumer brand names, logos, and slogans that the public associates with a consumer product. Trademark owners can sue for monetary damages or initiate a cease-and-desist order if another company similarly brands a product, thus confusing the public.

X’s trademark is a black and white stylized letter X. Microsoft registered its X federal trademark in 2003 to brand its video-game system Xbox. Meta Platforms registered a white and blue X trademark in 2019 as a logo representing social media and software fields. Meta has launched a new platform in competition with X, but Gerben does not believe Meta or Microsoft is likely to sue X unless they feel Musk’s company logo is confusing consumers. Meta, formerly Facebook, is battling its own intellectual property issues after the investment firm Metacapital and MetaX, a virtual-reality enterprise, sued it last year. Meta settled a third infringement action based on its logo of the infinity symbol.

Can You Trademark a Single Letter?

Loeb & Loeb trademark attorney Douglas Masters said trademarking a single letter as popular as X is difficult, and protection will be very narrow because an X logo is not very distinct and will probably rest on graphics that are too similar in the eyes of the court. X, Meta, and Microsoft spokespersons have not yet commented on the logo issue.

News-Sharing Rights on X

Agence France-Presse is taking on Musk for another intellectual property infringement, this time for copyright, because under the European Union property rules, first adopted by France in 2019, publishers and news outlets can seek payment when digital platforms share their work. AFP calls this action the adoption of neighboring rights.

It wants the courts to force Musk’s X to document the use of its news content appearing on the platform to fairly distribute the value that sharing content generates. AFP claims X has clearly refused to discuss the issue. Musk called the action bizarre in an expletive-laced tweet and complained that AFP wants X to pay it for driving traffic to its site, where AFP collects ad revenue and X does not.

Copyright reform gained traction in the European Union when many lamented the declining quality of journalism, fueled in part by the digital giants siphoning off advertising revenue from print and broadcast journalism.

Any individual or business that wishes to get on the right foot with their trademarks or copyrights should work with the Lomnitzer Law team at their earliest convenience.