This week Meta launched its much-anticipated rival to Twitter, Threads. This prompted a swift response from Twitter, whose attorney wrote to Meta saying the new app was a "systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property" and that they intend to "strictly enforce its intellectual property rights". As the world waits to see what happens next, we take a look at what intellectual property rights Twitter could seek to enforce against Meta.

Twitter has alleged that Meta has infringed its "trade secrets" and "other intellectual property". What particular rights are Twitter referring to?

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are a type of intellectual property right which prevents, usually employees, from taking sensitive business information or "know how" and passing this information to other businesses who could be considered as competitors. In order for something to be classified as a trade secret in the UK, three tests must be satisfied:

  1. It is a secret;
  2. It is valuable because it is a secret; and
  3. The person in lawful control of the information has taken reasonable steps, to keep it a secret.

A classic example of a trade secret would be the Irn Bru recipe. An employee who knew the famous recipe would be prevented from taking the knowledge of how the drink was made to another competitor for them to manufacture and sell the same or a very similar product.

At this early stage, Twitter's accusations are not specific, but it appears to be claiming that ex-Twitter employees have passed "trade secrets" to Meta. Meta has denied that any ex-Twitter employees have been involved in the engineering team at Meta. Twitter may claim that ex-Twitter employees have taken the algorithms used for Twitter and given them to Meta to help create its new app, Threads. Nevertheless, we will not know the specifics of any allegations until Twitter commences formal legal proceedings.

Other Intellectual Property Rights

Twitter's attorney has referred to "Threads" as a "copycat" product. On the face of it, it would appear that Twitter believes that Meta has infringed its copyright.

Copyright protects the 'form' in which an idea is expressed rather than the idea itself. Twitter may claim that it has copyright in the way its app is designed, such as the way tweets look, the love heart symbol which represents a "like" or the arrows which represent a "retweet". Whether or not they do and whether the new Threads app has infringed this would be a matter for a court to determine. Neither side appears to be conceding much at the moment and it will be interesting to see how this dispute develops over the coming weeks and months.


Lucy Duff

Senior Solicitor

Craig Watt

Partner & Solicitor Advocate

Harry Briggs