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Twitpic to shut down, blames trademark battle with Twitter

Photo-sharing service's founder claims microblogging site threatened to cut off access to API if the startup did not abandon its trademark.

Twitpic says it is shutting down over a trademark fight with Twitter. CNET

Twitpic, a service that lets people share images on Twitter, announced Thursday it will shut down later this month after a trademark battle with the microblogging social network.

Calling the announcement "unexpected and hard," Twitpic founder Noah Everett explained in a company blog post that the decision was made after Twitter threatened to cut off Twitpic's access to its application programming interface -- the tools that allow developers to tap into Twitter's platform -- if the six-year-old startup did not abandon its trademark. The company filed its trademark application with the US Patent and Trade Office in 2009, but an "implied" threat of a disconnect from Twitter's API came from Twitter counsel during a recent "published for opposition" period, Everett wrote.

"Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark, which we believe wholeheartedly is rightfully ours," Everett wrote. "Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic."

A Twitter spokesperson noted the company's trademark concerns in a statement provided to CNET.

"We're sad to see Twitpic is shutting down," the representative said. "We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand."

Twitpic users will have until September 25 to export their photos and videos, Everett wrote.

Launched in 2008, Twitpic was perhaps the best-established third-party image-sharing service for Twitter users, letting them link to photos in tweets. It's was a source of citizen journalism as tweeters spotted newsworthy events -- such as the Hudson River plane crash -- captured the action on their phone, uploaded images to Twitpic and shared the link on Twitter.

However, in 2011, Twitter announced its own photo-sharing service, which competes directly with third-party photo services built on Twitter's API like Twitpic.