Elon Musk’s ‘X’ already trademarked by Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta for ‘social networking services’

‘There’s a 100 per cent chance that Twitter is going to get sued over this,’ IP lawyer warns

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 27 July 2023 06:40 BST
Twitter to X: Why Elon Musk rebranded the social networking platform

Elon Musk may face legal difficulties after rebranding Twitter to X, trademark experts have warned, with tech rivals Meta and Microsoft both owning intellectual property rights for the letter.

The tech billionaire renamed the social network on Monday, nine months after taking over the company in a $44bn deal. The name change forms part of his plan to turn the platform into an “everything app”, which will offer services akin to China’s WeChat and India’s PayTM.

X chief executive Linda Yaccarino said the company wanted to “transform the global town square” to integrate payments, banking and create a “global marketplace for ideas, goods, services and opportunities”.

Before achieving this goal, however, IP lawyers claim Mr Musk’s firm may face challenges from its competitors.

“There’s a 100 per cent chance that Twitter is going to get sued over this by somebody,” US trademark lawyer Josh Gerben told Reuters, noting that there are nearly 900 active US trademark registrations that already cover the letter X.

These include Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, which owns a federal trademark for a blue-and-white letter ‘X’ relating to “social networking services in the fields of entertainment, gaming and application development”.

Microsoft also has registered trademarks for the letter ‘X’ relating to its Xbox video game console. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

The logo of X, formerly known as Twitter, on the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, on 23 July 2023

Mr Musk first owned the X.com domain in 1999, when he founded a financial services company that later went on to become PayPal. He reacquired the domain in 2017 after making a deal with his former company, before tweeting in October 2022 that buying Twitter was “an accelerant to creating X, the everything app”.

It is not clear whether Mr Musk has applied for a trademark for X, but if he succeeds he may still face difficulties in protecting the registered rights against other brands using the letter.

“The very essence of trademark registration is obtaining an exclusive right to the brand that is registered,” Matthew Harris, a trademark lawyer with Pinsent Masons, told The Independent.

“It may be difficult to obtain for Elon Musk under the ‘X’ rebrand, not to mention the difficulty, should he obtain registered protection, in trying to enforce any registered rights in ‘X’ against other brands using a similar name.”

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