Twitter has been targeted in a lawsuit from podcast production company TWiT, with the social network accused of trademark infringement and a breach of contract after it started expanding into providing streaming video content to its users.
According to the filing, made in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday, the disagreement stems from an appearance of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams on "[email protected]", a show on the Leo Laporte-owned TWiT podcast network, in 2007. A previous guest on TWiT's shows, Williams' appearance was used as a way to promote Twitter during the earlier days of its existence.
During the show, Williams advised to Laporte Twitter was only a text-based microblogging service, reports TechCrunch, but apparently acknowledged the potential for confusion over the two trademarks. Laporte and Williams are also alleged to have agreed for the two marks to coexist, "conditioned on each company continuing its own unique distribution platform," with TWiT keeping to video and audio while Twitter stuck to text.
News stories from 2009 suggesting Twitter was planning an expansion into video allegedly caused TwiT some concern due to the potential confusion with advertisers and users, prompting Laporte to correspond with Williams, who by then had become Twitter's CEO. Williams dismissed the reports in his response, advising "Don't worry: We're not expanding to audio or video under the Twitter brand."
Twitter had changed its mind about video by May 2017, announcing plans to create streaming news and sports videos for the microblogging service, along with broadcasts from concerts and other major events. TWiT considered Twitter's announcement to be "a breach of its promise to and agreement with" the company and Laporte, with its lawyers sending a demand to Twitter to stop expanding the use of its mark.
After the legal demand, the two firms have "engaged in communications," but have so far failed to resolve the dispute, with Twitter continuing to offer live video streams to its users.
TWiT has asked the court for a permanent injunction to prevent Twitter from distributing audio and video content, along with damages, profits gained from Twitter's use of video, attorney's fees, and any further relief the court sees fit to award. Twitter has yet to pass comment on the lawsuit.