Trademark fight: Brit biz Threads has a teeny tiny problem with Meta's Threads

Software house says it's had UK trademark since 2012 as Zuck & Co know full well

Meta's Threads app is facing a trademark challenge from a software biz that says it owns the rights to the name in the UK, and has given Zuck's crew 30 days to change its branding in Blighty or face an injunction. 

Threads has been a trademarked software service in the UK since 2012, according to Threads Software Limited (TSL), which was founded in 2018 after being spun off from founder John Paul Yardley's larger JPY Ltd software development firm.

TSL's Threads is a cloud-based service for businesses to centralize digital messages from different sources – like emails and phone calls – into a searchable database.

TSL's Threads is available globally, and was first marketed in the US in 2014, the British biz said. Meanwhile, Meta's Twitter-like Threads app arrived in the UK in July this year.

"We want them to stop using the Threads name with immediate effect. If they do not, we will seek an injunction from the UK courts," Yardley, who serves as TSL's managing director, said in a statement.

These allegations of infringement didn't just now materialize out of thin air. Interaction between TSL and Meta began in April 2023, just a few months prior to the launch of Meta's Threads. Zuckercorp tried to buy TSL's domain for £6,000 ($7,273), Yardley told The Register, and made an additional three purchase offers that topped out at £145,000 ($176,000), but TSL declined each one.

"It was made clear to Meta's Instagram [Threads' parent inside Meta] that the domain was not for sale," TSL said. 

Meta's Threads later launched on July 5, and on July 7 TSL's Facebook page was removed for what we're told were allegations of community standards violations. The British software shop alleges it hadn't received a single warning of any violations since creating a Facebook page in 2021. 

According to Yardley, there hasn't been any communication between TSL and Meta aside from the domain purchase requests, and the social networking biz has yet to respond to TSL's letter, we're told. We asked Meta if it plans to respond to the injunction threat, but didn't hear back at time of publication.

Watch out for that sling, Mark

As a service dealing with digital messaging, it's understandable that there could be some trademark confusion, TSL noted, and the lawyers seem to agree.

In an email to The Register, Yardley told us that his patent and trademark lawyers at Venner Shipley advised the company to speak to a barrister specializing in trademark law, which TSL did.

"It took us four months to get the necessary legal advice to establish that our case for an injunction was winnable," Yardley told us.

This isn't the first time Meta's Threads has drawn the ire of competitors, for example Elon Musk and his Twitter successor, X. Musk challenged Zuckerberg to a cage match over claims the Zuckerbot purloined ex-X employees and used them to build a social media clone.

The fight, which Musk's mom objected to, never ended up happening, and since then Musk's social media firm has threatened to sue Meta for stealing trade secrets. Like the cage fight, the lawsuit hasn't materialized either.

Unlike the billionaire vs billionaire showdown between Musk and Zuck, TSL is considerably smaller. Its Threads product is being used by nearly 1,000 organizations worldwide. But with the proliferation of disparate digital messaging systems, and the need to catalog countless missives, TSL's Threads is growing at a rate of 200 percent annually, the company said.

"Taking on a $150 billion company is not an easy decision for us to make," Yardley said. Nonetheless, "our business now faces a serious threat from one of the largest technology companies in the world.

"We recognize that this is a classic 'David and Goliath' battle with Meta. And whilst they may think they can use whatever name they want, that does not give them the right to use the Threads brand name." ®

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