We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of "going after" the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.
This is where intellectual property collides with the idea that everything in the world can be "monetized". They want the option to enforce modern branding on a word from the mid-1800s (see tweet. Dictionary.com. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tweet (accessed: July 02, 2009).)
The threat of suing consumers over music and movies has already started leading toward cultural apathy toward intellectual property. While the individuals who are sued embrace the enforced respect of IP, the negative press and customer anger grows. I suppose it's natural to want to protect your own ideas and you should. Diminishing returns engages around the time the tiny Scrooge in your head starts word counting. Twitter saying they won't sue unless they feel like they have to doesn't comfort me.
I remember eToys offering half a million dollars for etoy.com. When the group of digital artists who owned the domain declined, eToys filed suit. I clearly remember someone on Silicon Spin on TechTV (ah good times) justifying the suit because it was important to protect the brand they worked so hard to establish. The problem was etoy.com established in 1994, long before eToys. The book, Leaving Reality Behind, chronicles the eToys lawsuit.
Protecting the brand is every company's responsibility to its employees and investors. It's a completely different thing to try and control language and usage through intimidation and lawsuits, especially in attempts at retroactively assuming control of words. The eToys lawsuit was a PR nightmare. Twitter would do well to rethink control of the word "tweet".
While companies should protect themselves, our culture should also protect freedom of speech and expression from being disassembled one word at a time.
Foggy memories corrected via Google. The company was eToys and I corrected the text to reflect that and linked to sources. I completely blanked on some of this history going on what I vaguely remembered. Note to self: save and publish later if you're not sure. Also, I could not find any transcripts of Silicon Spin for that particular episode. I believe it aired the week of 12/23/1999. I wish the old non-ruined TechTV content was still available online.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Be careful when naming your Twitter application… (sociallyminded.co.uk)
- Twitter Gets 'Tweet-itorial' (marketingpilgrim.com)
- Twitter Grows "Uncomfortable" With The Use Of The Word Tweet In Applications (techcrunch.com)