In late Oct., Twitter laid out some new rules for how people could use its name, trademarks and so on. One of those included rules was in regards to using the words “Twitter” or “Tweet” in a domain or product name, but thus far the company has taken no action against anyone. It was beginning to feel like it was one of those rules that exists just in case they need it, but all of that has changed now, but before anyone gets to worked up, there appears to be a story behind this instance.
Twitter has filed a UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) claim against TwitterSearch.com. This is a method by which a company that owns a trademark can claim any domain name that involves its name via ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). No matter how creative you get with a domain name, if you try to trade on someone else’s trademarked name, they have the legal right to take it from you.
Thus far Twitter has been lenient in the use of its name, so of course people are concerned that this move signals the beginning of the end for anyone with a Twitter-related domain name. While they may move on to more companies, there appears to be a bit more to this name. According to Domain Name Wire, the TwitterSearch site has never been anything more than a placeholder, and according to a reader of the reporting site, the owners once tried to sell the name with the promise that Twitter would eventually “buy it for a few hundred thousand dollars.”
Someone reached out to Twitter at the time of the attempted sale to get their comment, which was:
…I’ve been in touch with these people, and they’re very interested in extorting us and not very interested in working with us. Please regard their emails as spam and feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns.
What these extortion plans were is not clear, and there has been no more elaboration on that point.
Twitter will now walk with the domain for about $1,500 in fees when the process is all done.
Should other sites be worried? Who knows. Twitter does have the rights to any domain with their name in it (they still don’t have a trademark on “tweet”, so those sites are definitely still in the clear), so I wouldn’t be to hip on building a business around that domain. So long as you don’t try “extorting” the company, however, you may be okay.