Musk’s new Twitter design could cause X-tensive legal issues

27 Jul 2023

Image: © AdriaVidal /

With hundreds of trademarks already in place for “X”, Musk’s plans to make an ‘everything app’ could face copyright challenges if it moves into new markets.

Twitter has undergone an extensive style change this week, with the iconic bird logo being replaced with an “X” design.

This is part of Elon Musk’s plans to create his own “everything app”, a goal that he has spoken of for a long time. Musk previously hinted of plans to make Twitter into something similar to WeChat, a massive social media app that is popular in China.

Musk explained the logic behind changing Twitter’s name and design in a recent tweet, where he said the old name made sense “when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth”.

“But now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video,” Musk said. “In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world.

“The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.”

But while Musk aims to bring X into new markets, the simple name and design may cause him a lot of legal trouble in the future.

X-tensive trademark competition

Musk has been a big fan of “X” for years and even attempted to rebrand PayPal into when he was CEO of the payment company. While that attempt was unsuccessful, he has inserted the term into other companies he owns, such as SpaceX and his recent xAI endeavour.

But having a company named after a single letter of the alphabet can create confusion in terms of branding, as Musk may struggle to stop other companies from taking the new logo design and using it for their own products.

Concerns around copying have been highlighted by Musk already, as he recently threatened legal action against Meta for allegedly copying Twitter’s intellectual property and design with Threads.

The US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) says on its website that “creative and unique trademarks are more effective and easier to protect”.

“A common misconception is that having a trademark means you legally own a particular word or phrase and can prevent others from using it.” USPTO says. “However, you don’t have rights to the word or phrase in general, only to how that word or phrase is used with your specific goods or services.”

This is an area that could pose a problem for Musk, as a variety of other companies have already incorporated X into their products and services.

Meta, Microsoft and hundreds of other entities have X trademarks according to Reuters, which present potential legal challenges. Many of these X trademarks are for specific uses. For example, The Verge reports that the purpose for Microsoft’s X trademark is around gaming.

This may not be an issue for Twitter now, but could lead to future legal troubles if Musk tries to make his “everything app” a reality. New X features for gaming or financial services could face legal challenges from companies like Microsoft, Xtrade or XInsurance.

Simple names have caused trademark disputes in the past, such as Microsoft being forced to change SkyDrive to OneDrive after it lost a court case against Sky.

An X-rated name

Changing a website’s identity into the vague “X” has already caused some problems for Musk, as the term X has been linked to sites that are pornographic in nature.

Indonesia has blocked Twitter due to this confusion. The social media site can be accessed by typing, but the country claims this domain was previously used by websites that broke Indonesia’s laws around porn and gambling, Al Jazeera reports.

The connection to X-rated material has been noted among users as well. The term XVideos – a pornography site – was trending on Twitter when the brand change was announced earlier this week, due to comments that Twitter videos could soon be referred to as X videos.

This presents another potential issue for a company that has suffered reputation losses among advertisers since Musk took over last year.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic