The problem with X? Meta, Microsoft, hundreds more own trademarks to new Twitter name


The signature blue bird perched atop social media platform Twitter vanished on Sunday as part of a company rebrand under a new name: X.

The revamp marks the latest change enacted by billionaire owner Elon Musk, who stepped down as CEO last month but retained a prominent role in the company.

Promising an AI-fueled expansion of the site's capabilities, X aims to follow the logo change with an ambitious foray into online banking and video messaging, among other areas, CEO Linda Yaccarino said on Sunday.

"It's an exceptionally rare thing -- in life or in business -- that you get a second chance to make another big impression," tweeted Yaccarino, who previously worked as an advertising executive at NBCUniversal.

"Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate," she added. "Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square."

Here's what to know about X, what makes it different from Twitter, and the role of Musk in the rebrand.

For now, X is a rebranded Twitter -- but the company on Sunday revealed plans to offer users a one-stop shop for many of their online needs.

The aspiration was made public as long ago as last year. Days after acquiring Twitter, in October, Musk tweeted: "Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app."

Taking a step closer earlier this month, Musk launched an artificial intelligence company called xAI, vowing to develop a generative AI program that competes with established offerings like ChatGPT.

Describing X's goal as "unlimited interactivity," Yaccarino said on Sunday that the company plans to become a hub of online messaging and commerce.

"Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we're just beginning to imagine," Yaccarino said.

The best example of what Musk means by an "everything app" is WeChat, a highly popular app in China that serves not only as a messaging and media-sharing platform but also a versatile tool in which users pay friends, purchase products, and book reservations, among other uses, analysts previously told ABC News.

The rebrand arrives at a transition period and self-admitted financial difficulty for the company.

PHOTO: Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino, attends an event on Jan. 8, 2020, when she was at NBC Universal.
Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino, attends an event on Jan. 8, 2020, when she was at NBC Universal.
Penske Media via Getty Images, FILE

Last month, Yaccarino took over as CEO, elevating her as a visible leader alongside Musk, who remains executive chairman and chief technology officer. Musk also serves as CEO of Space X.

Meanwhile, the company has lost 50% of its advertising revenue and faces a negative cash flow, meaning there is more money being spent on expenses than brought in through revenue, Musk tweeted earlier this month.

Prior to its acquisition by Musk, Twitter made the vast majority of its revenue through advertising but many large companies have pulled ads from the platform amid what some have described as a rise of explicit and hateful content.

In addition, X faces a new threat from ascendant social media platform Threads, owned by Facebook's parent-company Meta. Threads reached 100 million users within five days, achieving a record as the fastest app ever to do so.

By comparison, Twitter boasted 238 million users before Musk took the company private in October, the company said in an earnings report last year.

What role did Musk play in the rebrand?

Musk's interest in the letter "X" traces back more than two decades.

In 1999, Musk launched an online payments and banking company called, which later merged with PayPal.

Musk repurchased the URL "" in 2017. Now, the domain directs visitors to Twitter.

"Not sure what subtle clues gave it away, but I like the letter X," Musk said in a Tweet on Sunday alongside a photo of him crossing his arms to form the letter.

"And soon we shall bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds," he added.

Billionaire Elon Musk's decision to rebrand Twitter as X could be complicated legally: companies including Meta (META.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) already have intellectual property rights to the same letter.

X is so widely used and cited in trademarks that it is a candidate for legal challenges - and the company formerly known as Twitter could face its own issues defending its X brand in the future.

"There's a 100% chance that Twitter is going to get sued over this by somebody," said trademark attorney Josh Gerben, who said he counted nearly 900 active U.S. trademark registrations that already cover the letter X in a wide range of industries.

Elon Musk's recent marketing stunt has drawn criticism for its desperate undertones. In a significant move, Twitter's owner has hinted at a rebranding, officially announcing the platform's transformation into "X" and abandoning its original name and iconic bird logo. Alongside this change, Musk envisions incorporating additional features such as banking and shopping services to create an "everything app" that offers users a wide range of conveniences. Linda Yaccarino, Musk's chosen successor as CEO, is generating buzz about X, describing it as the epitome of unlimited interactivity, powered by artificial intelligence. 

These ambitious yet vague promises raise doubts about Twitter's, or rather, X's ability to fulfill them, especially considering the diminished workforce resulting from mass layoffs. The company is also facing challenges such as evading rent payments and dealing with lawsuits related to allegations of not paying severance packages totaling half a billion dollars. As of now, the changes made are primarily superficial, involving the replacement of the Twitter bird logo with a Unicode "X" symbol on the site, updated signage, and renamed conference rooms at the San Francisco headquarters with names like "eXposure" and "s3Xy." This Elon-style gimmick is reminiscent of when they temporarily added the Doge meme to the homepage to boost the value of the almost-worthless cryptocurrency Dogecoin back in April. Despite the questionable nature of these changes, Musk continues to champion the shift and even claims that the term "tweet" will now be referred to as "an X." It remains to be seen how successful this rebranding endeavor will be. 

Since Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion last year, the company's value has declined significantly, dropping by two-thirds. Against this backdrop, Musk seems determined to let go of some of the platform's most crucial assets: its name and image. Public relations specialists have labeled this move as "brand suicide." History has shown that the public wasn't convinced to adopt names like Meta for Facebook or Alphabet for Google, despite their efforts. Similarly, "Twitter" has become deeply ingrained in the culture, and that is what people will likely continue to call the platform. 

Musk renamed the social media network Twitter as X on Monday and unveiled a new logo for the social media platform, a stylized black-and-white version of the letter.

Owners of trademarks - which protect things like brand names, logos, and slogans that identify sources of goods - can claim infringement if another branding would cause consumer confusion. Remedies range from monetary damages to blocking use.

Microsoft since 2003 has owned an X trademark related to communications about its Xbox video game system. Meta Platforms - whose Threads platform is a new Twitter rival - owns a federal trademark registered in 2019 covering a blue-and-white letter "X" for fields including software and social media.

Meta and Microsoft likely would not sue unless they feel threatened that Twitter's X encroaches on brand equity they built in the letter, Gerben said.

The three companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Meta itself drew intellectual property challenges when it changed its name from Facebook. It faces trademark lawsuits filed last year by investment firm Metacapital and virtual-reality company MetaX and settled another over its new infinity-symbol logo.

And if Musk succeeds in changing the name, others still could claim 'X' for themselves.

"Given the difficulty in protecting a single letter, especially one as popular commercially as 'X', Twitter's protection is likely to be confined to very similar graphics to their X logo," said Douglas Masters, a trademark attorney at law firm Loeb & Loeb.

"The logo does not have much distinctive about it, so the protection will be very narrow."

Insider reported earlier that Meta had an X trademark, and lawyer Ed Timberlake tweeted that Microsoft had one as well.

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