Elon Musk's X Corp. in Trademark Dispute With X Social Media
The tech world is no stranger to legal battles, especially regarding trademarks. The latest to hit the headlines is the trademark dispute between Elon Musk's X Corp. and a Florida-based media ad agency, X Social Media. This comes after Elon Musk decided to rebrand Twitter to X earlier this summer, raising concerns over potential trademark lawsuits.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
The Trademark Lawsuit
According to trademark attorney Josh Gerben, nearly 900 active U.S. trademark registrations covered the letter and branding “X” across various industries at the time of Musk's rebranding. Now, his firm represents X Social Media, which might be the first client to sue X Corp. for its trademark.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, states that X Social Media has been using the "X Social Media Mark" in commerce since at least early 2016. The company claims to have made significant investments in marketplace awareness, including developing a distinctive "X" mark associated with its media advertising services.
The Disputed “X”
Interestingly, the "X" used by X Social Media does not resemble Musk's "X." The company's "X" is an image of a figure of a person holding a pair of scales, which signifies its specialty in serving clients in the legal industry.
However, the complaint argues that Twitter's rebranding to "X" infringes on its mark. X Social Media alleges that the recent attempt to register the impact associated with media, business data, promotion, advertising, business consulting, market research, and advertising services necessitates this action. They claim it causes "serious irreparable harm" to X Social Media.
Implications of the Rebranding
According to the lawsuit, Twitter's rebranding to X has led to consumer confusion and the belief that X Social Media's advertising services are associated with X due to the marketing and awareness created as part of Musk's plan to turn the company into an "everything app."
X Social Media also claims to be ranked lower in search results for its name, as Google now points to X Corp.'s Wikipedia entry as a top result.
Furthermore, the suit makes the case that several of X Corp.'s trademark applications are for services similar to X Social Media's offering, including business data analysis, promotional services, business consulting and information services, and business, consumer, and market research.
Response from X Corp.
X Social Media had sent a cease-and-desist letter to X Corp. in August, but the company declined to stop using the mark. Now, X Social Media wants the court to stop X Corp. from using the "X" in its advertising and marketing materials and publish corrective advertising to address consumer confusion. They are also asking for damages.
X Corp. has yet to issue a public comment on the lawsuit and has only offered an auto-reply email stating, "Busy now, please check back later."
The Future of Tech Rebrands
As this lawsuit unfolds, it's clear that the tech industry needs to tread carefully regarding rebranding. This is not the first time a significant tech rebrand has resulted in a lawsuit. Facebook's rebranding to Meta saw multiple suits, including from a VR company, a blockchain group, and a software company. Meanwhile, Block (formerly Square) settled with a tax preparation service, H&R Block, after rebranding.
As Gerben had previously warned, hundreds of companies used the " X " mark, and there was a “100% chance” somebody over the X rebranding would sue Twitter. Hence, this case could set an exciting precedent for future tech rebrands.