Elon Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter as “X” could face complex legal challenges due to existing intellectual property rights held by companies like Meta and Microsoft, who also own trademarks for the letter “X.”
The widespread use and presence of the letter “X” in various trademarks make it susceptible to legal disputes, and Twitter (now “X”) may encounter difficulties in defending its new brand in the future.
Trademark attorney Josh Gerben predicts that Twitter is highly likely to be sued by someone over this rebranding. He discovered nearly 900 active U.S. trademark registrations that already include the letter “X” in a wide range of industries.
On Monday, Musk unveiled the new name “X” and a stylized black-and-white logo for the social media platform.
Companies with trademarks can claim infringement if they believe that other branding could confuse consumers. This could result in various remedies, from financial damages to preventing further use of the contested branding.
For instance, Microsoft has held the trademark for the letter “X” related to communications about its Xbox video-game system since 2003. Meanwhile, Meta Platforms, which offers Threads as a Twitter competitor, owns a federal trademark registered in 2019, covering a blue-and-white letter “X” for fields like software and social media.
However, Gerben suggests that Meta and Microsoft might not sue unless they feel their own brand equity associated with the letter “X” is threatened by Twitter’s rebrand.
Neither of the three companies responded to requests for comments.
Meta itself faced intellectual property challenges when it changed its name from Facebook, dealing with trademark lawsuits filed by investment firm Metacapital and virtual-reality company MetaX. It also settled another lawsuit over its new infinity-symbol logo.
In the event that Musk’s rebranding is successful, there’s still a possibility that others may claim the letter “X” for themselves.
Given the challenges of protecting a single letter, especially one as commercially popular as “X,” Twitter’s protection would likely be limited to very similar graphics to their current “X” logo, according to trademark attorney Douglas Masters from law firm Loeb & Loeb.
The logo lacks distinctiveness, making its protection quite narrow.
Earlier reports revealed Meta’s ownership of an “X” trademark, and a lawyer named Ed Timberlake tweeted about Microsoft having one as well.