Photo-Sharing Service Twitpic To Close Rather Than Fight Twitter Over Trademark
Closure marks end of once dominant way to share pictures on Twitter. Twitpic promises export option is coming soon.
Long before Twitter allowed you to share pictures natively through its own Twitter pictures service, there was Twitpic. It was even one of the default choices Twitter offered. But now Twitpic is closing — and putting the blame on Twitter.
In a post today, Twitpic said it will close on September 25, because of a trademark dispute with Twitter:
A few weeks ago Twitter contacted our legal demanding that we abandon our trademark application or risk losing access to their API. This came as a shock to us since Twitpic has been around since early 2008, and our trademark application has been in the USPTO since 2009.
Twitpic’s post goes on to explain that after getting through a number of hurdles, Twitter apparently said that if it gained the trademark and didn’t give it up voluntarily, Twitter would cut Twitpic off from Twitter’s API, a way that allows people to automatically post their Twitpic photos to Twitter:
We originally filed for our trademark in 2009 and our first use in commerce dates back to February 2008 when we launched. We encountered several hurdles and difficulties in getting our trademark approved even though our first use in commerce predated other applications, but we worked through each challenge and in fact had just recently finished the last one. During the “published for opposition” phase of the trademark is when Twitter reached out to our counsel and implied we could be denied access to their API if we did not give up our mark.
That’s enough for Twitpic founder Noah Everett, who wrote the post. Twitpic is just giving up rather than fight on:
Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours. Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic.
Twitpic also shared the news, appropriately enough, on Twitter itself:
Twitter’s Lost Love For Third-Party Photo Services
Twitpic, along with other third-party image services, already took a blow two years ago, when Twitter completely dropped them from being natively included in the Twitter app. Since that time, personally, I find it relatively rare to find people sharing pictures on Twitter through a third party service.
The other, of course, is Instagram. Twitter pulled some of Instagram’s API access two years ago, but that hasn’t seemed to stop its popularity as a way for people to share images on Twitter.
I’d also argue the dispute has been more harmful to Twitter. In response, Instagram stopped allowing pictures shared to Twitter from being visible within Twitter streams. That’s made Twitter less usable and means more people jump out of Twitter and over to Instagram to view pictures.
Export Coming; Old Tweets Will Break
Those with pictures on Twitpic — stay tuned. The company promises an export feature will be available in the next few days.
The closure also means that millions of older tweets with pictures will now break. Twitpic was once heavily used, before Twitter made it possible to share pictures natively. That means all those image links will break, after the closure.
We’ve asked Twitter for comment and will update if one is received.
Twitter: Didn’t Object To Twitpic Name Yet Probably Didn’t Want It Trademarked
About 45 minutes after this story was posted, Twitter was back with a fast response, telling Marketing Land:
We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down. We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.
The statement is odd — saying both that Twitter doesn’t have a problem with Twitpic using its name to “operate” yet also saying that there’s a trademark issue going on. What’s up with that?
I couldn’t get more clarification from Twitter, and I’m still waiting to hear back from Twitpic. But one likelihood is that Twitter is trying to make it sound like it doesn’t object to the Twitpic name when it does, in that it objects if Twitpic wants to trademark that name.
J Nicholas Gross summed this up well in a tweet to me:
In short, Twitter might be saying Twitpic can keep calling itself Twitpic, if it wants. But if Twitpic tries to trademark that name, then Twitter would view that as a brand infringement. The problem is that Twitpic, like many businesses, is unlikely to continue operating using a name that it has no trademark protections over.