Posted at: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-thread-social-platform-existed-years-before-metas-new-app-and-it-could-sue-experts-say-8f19fe96
What does a social platform that unites wives and mothers of NFL players have to do with Meta’s META, -0.50% newly unveiled (and very buzzy) Threads app?
Well, you might have to connect the dots — er, threads — but there’s enough of a link that some legal experts say it could pose a problem for Mark Zuckerberg’s so-called Twitter killer app.
The football platform, called Thread, is the brainchild of Cynthia Zordich, wife of retired NFL player Michael Zordich. She told MarketWatch that she launched her Thread platform in 2016 so that women tied to the sport “could find each other and promote each other in our business endeavors.”
In 2018, Zordich applied to trademark the name “Thread” through her attorney, Ben Leace, a partner in the Pennsylvania firm RatnerPrestia. Leace noted that the trademark has been approved, although it’s still going through an “opposition period” that allows for those who might claim rights to the name to raise objections.
Meta’s launch of its own Threads social-networking service leaves room for Zordich to potentially claim that Zuckerberg’s company has infringed upon her trademark, legal experts say.
Michael J. Feigin, an attorney who specializes in trademark, patent and copyright issues, told MarketWatch that Zordich and her attorney could make the case that Meta’s Threads is “going to cause confusion in the marketplace” and “weaken” the football-related Thread trademark. He added that it doesn’t matter if Zordich uses “Thread” while Meta uses “Threads,” since they’re close enough.
“The ‘s’ doesn’t make a difference,” Feigen said.
Leace said that he and Zordich will review the issue, but he wouldn’t comment on specifics. He did say, however, that “Ms. Zordich is always passionate about her cause.”
Meta didn’t respond to a MarketWatch query about the matter.
Cynthia Zordich established Thread, a social platform that connects wives and mothers of NFL players.
Courtesy Cynthia Zordich
Of course, there are plenty of other companies that use “thread” or “threads” in their names. In fact, a platform called Threads, which bills itself as a replacement for the messaging program Slack, got attention in the first 24 hours after Zuckerberg’s Threads launched as a result of people going to it thinking it was the new Meta-backed app.
In a statement, Rousseau Kazi, CEO and co-founder of the Slack-style Threads platform, which launched in 2019, acknowledged why the word might prove popular with others.
“Threads is a powerful word and an internet-native term,” said Kazi, who, coincidentally, previously worked at Facebook. “Given this, it comes as no surprise that Meta chose a powerful label to represent their take at building the town square.”
He gave no indication that he would pursue any legal action against Meta. If anything, Kazi and his company seem to be using the naming confusion as a way to promote themselves, as evidenced by this tweet:
A spokesperson for Kazi’s company also noted that Threads has a trademark.
But what about the other “thread” companies out there? Would they have some legal claim against Meta, especially if they have trademarked their name like Zordich has?
Experts say it depends partly on the nature of the company. If it’s a business involved in the fashion industry — and there are several with a “thread” moniker or something similar — it wouldn’t likely have a case. That’s because there’s less chance of people confusing a fashion “thread” company with a social-media “thread” company.
But in Zordich’s case, her company is built on the idea of building social connections, which experts say gives her some legal leverage.
Still, Gerard Filitti, a New York attorney with the Lawfare Project who has worked on trademark issues, makes the point that any claims of trademark infringement would come up against one potential roadblock: the fact that “thread” is a fairly common word.
“It’s not a strong trademark to begin with,” Filitti said.
Meanwhile, Meta may already be facing a legal challenge of a different sort. Alex Spiro, an attorney representing Twitter, has written to Zuckerberg saying that Meta has “engaged in systemic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”
Spiro added: “Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights.”