Goodbye Insta Apps. Instagram Puts the Hammer Down.
Goodbye InstaPlace. Goodbye Statigram. The apps and services may survive, but will need a new name at the very least. Instagram has had a change of mind and recently updated its brand guidelines. It has notified developers of many third-party Instagram support apps that they can no longer use “Insta” or “Gram” in the names if they wish to continue using the APIs and linking to the mammoth social network.
Under the new recently updated Instagram brand guidelines, developers may not:
- Use “Instagram,” “IG”, “Insta” or “Gram” in their app name
- Use the Camera Logos, or the Instagram name or logo, in their app icon
- Use the Instagram stylized font in their product or marketing materials
TechCrunch has an excellent post on this story here.
Emails have already been sent to developers requesting changes to the offending apps “within a reasonable period.” TechCrunch reposted part of this notice sent to Luxogram:
“We appreciate your interest in developing products that help people share with Instagram. While we encourage developers to build great apps with Instagram, we cannot allow other applications to look like they might be official Instagram applications or endorsed or sponsored by us.
“As we hope you can appreciate, protection of its well-known trademarks is very important to Instagram. For example, it has always been against our guidelines to use a name that sounds or looks like “Instagram” or copies the look and feel of our application. Similarly, as we have clarified in the new guidelines, use of “INSTA” and “GRAM” for an application that works with Instagram is harmful to the Instagram brand. It is important that you develop your own distinctive branding for your applications, and use Instagram’s trademarks only as specifically authorized under our policies.”
The Instagram name and other intellectual property have always been protected by trademark, while the more generic phrases “Insta” and “Gram” have not. In fact, at one point, their use was actually encouraged by Instagram. Check it out. Down at the bottom: “While you cannot use the word “Instagram” or “IG” in your product’s name, it’s ok to use one (but not both) of the following: “Insta” or “gram”.”
Instagram has made these changes in an effort to protect their brand and their trademarks. Trademark law is tricky and not always predictable. I’m not an attorney, but encourage any readers who are to chime in down below in the comments. If this were ever challenged in court, it would be interesting to see which precedents were raised. For instance, Kodak used the trademarked phrase “Instamatic” for years. In fact, when Instagram was first released, my first thoughts were “Oh, wow, another app that’s based on an old plastic camera that isn’t a Holga.” 21st century brand confusion.
In the end, this may be less about trademark law and more about
Useful Instagram add-on sites like Statigram, Webstagram, Instagrafic, InstaDesk and many others will have to rebrand or shut down. InstaPlace, InstaComenter, InstaSync, Instaplus — many of the Instagram front-end apps will need to rebrand, make other changes, or simply remove the very handy ability to share directly to Instagram from the app.
No word on whether these notifications have gone out to developers of physical products that base their business on Instagram. Rebranding an app is a pain, but fairly inexpensive. Rebranding a physical product involves a lot more expense for new packaging, new dies for manufacturing — essentially many of the physical start-up costs and unless the product is phenomenally successful and selling off the shelves (most aren’t), simply not worth the time and cost.
According to the new guidelines, developers will be able to use the convention “[Your App Name] for Instagram” to indicate that the product is integrated with Instagram. Insta apps won’t need to disappear. We’ll just need a bigger screen for the longer app names.
Back in the day when Instagram was iOS only and lean and hungry and only had a few million users, Insta apps — even crappy ones — were welcome and the free word of mouth helped to grow the network. Now that Instagram is a social phenomenon, it seems to be flexing its muscle to start reigning in and controlling the community that helped build it in the first place.