The 18th of May 2011 may have been a rather uneventful day for many people, but for followers of @TowerBridge on Twitter, they may have noticed a slight deviation from the normal tweets they’d come to expect. It was on this day that this particular Twitter handle was claimed by its rightful trademark owners.

TBNew 520x86 Backlash as beloved TowerBridge Twitter account is passed to rightful owners

You see, that particular Twitter handle had been owned – for several years – not by Tower Bridge or The City of London, but by Tom Armitage “a twenty-something games designer and technologist.” And the tweets from the bot he had created had been amusing and charming, such as: “I am closing after the PS Waverley has passed downstream.”

PSWaverley 520x40 Backlash as beloved TowerBridge Twitter account is passed to rightful owners

As noted on the BBC today, it seems that Armitage only recently noticed that his Twitter handle had been taken from him and given to Tower Bridge. But then he actually did notice an old e-mail telling him that the account had been claimed by its ‘rightful’ owner. It said:

“Twitter responds to reports from trademark holders regarding the use of trademarks that we determine is misleading or confusing with regard to brand or business affiliation. It has come to our attention that your Twitter account is in violation of Twitter’s trademark policy.”

It seems that Tower Bridge’s trademark had indeed been violated, and it states quite clearly on the Tower Bridge website itself:

“All intellectual property rights including copyright Database Rights and First Publication Rights patents Registered Trade Marks, know-how, intellectual or industrial property rights, including format, art direction, look and feel and content subsisting throughout the World shall rest in the Corporation of London.”

It has taken 3 years for this claim to be made, and it’s abundantly clear that Armitage hadn’t procured the handle in bad faith or wasn’t using the handle commercially, two key factors in any cybersquatting case. I can’t help but think if he’d bothered himself to challenge this at an earlier stage, then he may have had a valid claim to keep it. As Armitage himself says in his blog post:

“I’ve never pretended to be an official account; I’ve never dissimulated; no-one from the exhibition has ever got in touch with me about the bot.”

But then again, the trademark infringement claim may have held out in its own right, even if he had chosen to challenge this case at an earlier point.

Since Armitage announced yesterday that his account had been taken away from him, it seems that many have lent their support across the Twitter sphere. For example, @Julsbo said: “Can’t believe @twitter reallocated @towerbridge to a marketer and didn’t inform the incumbent. Disturbing.” And comedian @RobinInce said: “Twitter closed a charming account down and handed it to some marketers. please RT.”

Meanwhile, it seems the new owners of @TowerBridge have noticed this backlash, as their most recent tweet claims that they’re chatting with Armitage to see if he can continue to provide bridge updates:

Tower Bridge towerbridge on Twitter 1307965691977 520x84 Backlash as beloved TowerBridge Twitter account is passed to rightful owners  Does that mean that years of tweets have just been erased? Well, you can still view up to a thousand days of its tweets on Research.ly.

The hashtag #givetowerbridgeback is currently being used in support of the original owner, so feel free to join in. Though I doubt very much that Tower Bridge will hand it back.