A UK-based software company called Threads Software Limited is threatening legal action against Meta over its use of the name Threads. The company, which says it’s owned the “Threads” trademark since 2012, makes an “intelligent message hub” that uses AI to help businesses keep track of phone calls, emails and other messages.
Threads Software Limited claims that Meta lawyers made four separate attempts, beginning in April 2023, to buy the software company’s threads.app domain, and eventually shut down its Facebook account. “Every offer was declined,” the company said in a statement. “It was made clear to Meta’s Instagram that the domain was not for sale. In July 2023, Meta’s Instagram announced its ‘threads’ social media platform and removed Threads Software Limited from its Facebook platform.”
The software company said that it’s giving Meta 30 days to “stop using the Threads name” and that it will “seek an injunction from the UK courts” if the social media company declines to do so. In a statement, Threads Software’s CEO John Yardley said it was “not an easy decision” to take on Meta, but that the “business now faces a serious threat from one of the largest technology companies in the world.”
Meta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s not clear how much money Meta may have offered for threads.app, but Yardley’s statements offer a rare look at the kind of backroom negotiations that can happen in order to secure a sought-after domain or username.
It’s also worth noting that the software maker wasn’t the only company using the Threads name at the time Meta launched its Twitter competitor. Fashion retailer American Threads controlled the @Threads handle on Instagram at the time of the service’s launch. The company jokingly responded to commenters at the time, and posted on the new Threads service about people mixing up the clothing brand with the Meta-owned service. Meta used @threadsapp on Instagram and threadsapp.net on Threads, at the time of the service’s launch.
A month later, the retailer’s Instagram account changed handles to @americanthreads without explanation, while Meta took control of the @Threads handle. Representatives for the clothing brand didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but the circumstances are strikingly similar to how Meta quietly gained control of the @Meta handle on Instagram more than a year ago. That username was also controlled by a separate entity — an independent motorcycle publication called META — but the account was later subsumed by the social network without explanation.
Representatives of Meta, the magazine, never commented directly on how their account changed hands, but wrote about their dismay in learning of Facebook's name change. “With the flip of a switch our identity was suddenly watered down, and we watched our name circle the drain and wash away with something we had no control over,” the magazine’s cofounder wrote in a blog post that’s since been deleted. The magazine now uses the name Vahna.
For now, it appears Threads Software Limited is hoping for a different outcome. “Over the last 10 years, we have made a large investment in the Threads name and we did not want to potentially have to write-off this investment simply because Meta happened to like the name we had already coined for a messaging service,” it wrote in a blog post. “For us to change the service name simply to avoid confusion with Meta’s product could well set back the service enough for us to lose that technological lead.”
If you have been offered money in exchange for your domain name or handle from Meta or another social media company, reach out to me at karissa.bell [at] engadget.com or on Signal at +1.628.231.0063.