Twitter is trying to trademark “subtweet,” a word that refers to a tweet directed at another person without directly mentioning their Twitter name. Exhibit A: Kim Kardashian West’s subtweet directed at Amber Rose.
Remember, people only rain on your parade because they’re jealous of your sun & tired of their shade
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 5, 2012
If you’re not familiar with the micro-blogging network’s lexicon, words like “tweet,” “subtweet,” and “tweetstorm” all refer to Twitter activity but were generally coined by users or in relation to user behavior. For its part, Twitter has tried to trademark them all, but not always successfully.
That begs the question, why would the company want to trademark a word that is colloquially used within the context of its platform anyway? A trademark is a recognizable seal, which officially marks a word as coming from a particular source. If successful, the word “subtweet” would belong to the company to use in a commercial context, which it would in fact be required to do in order to maintain its rights to that word.
Not imposing a trademark could lead to a weakening brand, which Gizmodo claims could explain Twitter’s intentions. Notably, the trademark filing took place on October 30, just weeks after Jack Dorsey was named permanent CEO of the company. Twitter had the following to say when prompted by The Verge about the decision: “When you need to protect your namespace from people who would misuse it. #keepingit.”
Twitter’s infamous battle to trademark “tweet” (which it lost due to the fact that the term had already been in use far too long, in particular with app developers) could have been the catalyst for its subsequent decisions to register filings for a whole host of words. Afterward, the company even began filing for vocabulary related to its Vine video platform (such as “Viners” and “revine”).
The word “subtweet” was published to opposition by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on November 19. If no one opposes it, Twitter will likely gain the rights within months. Any objections?