I’m pleased to announce that the name Twine® is now a registered trademark of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation.
Why do this?
The trademark protects the name Twine. For example, it prevents anyone (or any company) from creating, say, a competing application called TwinePlus without our permission. Anyone can still make an application like Twine—they just have to call it something different.
This also potentially prevents someone from trying to make a profit off of the name Twine without permission—for example, if a company tried to sell Twine T-shirts without our permission.
Neither scenario (application or T-shirt) has happened so far, but the trademark protects Twine should it ever occur.
This is not out of the ordinary for open source projects. Many other high-profile projects have their name trademarked, including Debian, Firefox, Git, jQuery, and VNC. These trademarks are often held by organizations, usually nonprofits like IFTF.
Does this mean Twine is going commercial?
No, not at all. Many nonprofits and non-commercial projects have trademark registrations, and “commercial” usage isn’t required to get a registration. Twine continues to be licensed under the GNU Public License 3.0, which means that you may use it without paying anyone. You can even create derivatives of it so long as you abide by the terms of the GPLv3, and that you choose a name for your derivative that is sufficiently different that there would be no confusion between your version and the original one. You may also continue to distribute Twine’s source code as much as you like. It in itself is not trademarked (nor can it be—trademarks only apply to names).
What does it mean for authors working with Twine?
Very little. The IFTF would kindly ask authors to avoid calling Twine stories “twines,” as this potentially makes it more difficult to enforce the trademark, but that is about the extent to which authors need to think about the trademark. You can of course continue to write about Twine, make videos about it, and post things you made with Twine wherever you like without asking for permission. Anyone can use “Twine” to refer to the TWINE® project—that’s called descriptive fair use—so there are no restrictions on saying “This story was created with Twine,” although we’d ask you to use the ® if you can.
Twinery.org now has a notice explaining that Twine is a trademark of IFTF, but you do not need to add this notice on material you create related to Twine.
The trademark also has no implications for anyone selling a game, story, or other unclassifiable project created with Twine—assuming, of course, the name of whatever you’re creating is sufficiently distinct from “Twine.” Selling “Beowulf: Twine Edition” is OK. Selling a hypertext game called just “Twine”… is something we are asking you not to do.
There are several other software projects named Twine. Does this mean you’re going to sue them?
No. The trademark filing is specifically for the name Twine as it pertains to the creation of hypertext. The other projects that we’re aware of, although they are also software, are in other domains.
What about Twine’s built-in story formats like Chapbook, Harlowe, Snowman, and SugarCube?
There are no plans to register them with the US Trademark Office at this time.
I have another question about this trademark stuff.
Contact us please.