When Elon Musk rebranded Twitter to X this summer, there were concerns that the new company could face trademark lawsuits as there were nearly 900 active U.S. trademark registrations that cover the letter and branding “X” across various industries, according to comments made by trademark attorney Josh Gerben, speaking to the press at the time. Now his firm is representing what may be the first client to sue X over its trademark — a Florida-based social media ad agency, X Social Media, that connects clients with opportunities to market themselves across social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, was initially reported by Bloomberg Law. It states that X Social Media, LLC “has continuously used the X Social Media Mark in commerce since at least early 2016,” and has significantly invested in marketplace awareness, which included developing a distinctive “X” mark that’s associated with its social media advertising services.
For what it’s worth, X Social Media’s “X” looks nothing like Musk’s “X” — in fact, it’s an image that is actually a figure of a person where the “X” has distinctive arms and legs holding a pair of scales — a symbol the company uses to designate its specialty in serving clients in the legal industry.
Nevertheless, the complaint argues that Twitter’s rebranding to “X” infringes on its own mark, and that its “recent attempt to register the mark in association with social media, business data, promotion and advertising, business consulting, market research services, and advertising services…necessitates this action” because it causes “serious irreparable harm” to X Social Media.
In addition, the complaint alleges that the marketing and awareness that was built around Twitter’s rebranding to X, as Musk’s vision to transform the company into an “everything app,” has caused consumer confusion because people may believe that X Social Media’s advertising services are being offered by or are in association with X.
X Social Media is also now ranking lower in search results for its own name, as Google points to X Corp.’s Wikipedia entry as a top result.
The suit also 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.
Ahead of its lawsuit, X Social Media sent a cease-and-desist letter to X Corp. in August, but the company declined to stop using the mark, it says.
X Social Media’s suit 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; X Social Media is also asking for damages.
Though X Social Media’s case may mark one of the first companies to target Musk’s X Corp. it may not be the last. Gerben had previously warned that the mark was used by hundreds of companies and had told Reuters there was a “100% chance” Twitter would be sued by somebody over the X rebranding.
X is not the first major tech rebrand to result in a lawsuit, Bloomberg’s report also noted. Facebook’s rebranding to Meta saw multiple suits, including from a VR company, blockchain group and software company. Meanwhile, Block settled with tax preparation service H&R Block after rebranding from Square.
X Corp. didn’t reply to requests for comment on the suite, sending only its auto-reply email “Busy now, please check back later.”