Instagram Orders Rubbish-Shaming App littergram to Change Name

Lawyers for the U.S. photo-sharing giant Instagram said the name of British anti-rubbish app 'littergram' was “not acceptable.” The Kent-based owners have been given six months to phase out the name. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Instagram has ordered the owner of a British anti-litter app to change its name.

Littergram invites people to share pictures of rubbish and report the location to their council.

But Bristows, lawyers for the U.S. photo-sharing giant, which was bought by Facebook for £629 million ($1 billion) in 2012, said the name was "not acceptable."

Owner Danny Lucas has sent Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a video asking him not to "kill" his well-intentioned project.

Mr Lucas, 48, from the south east county of Kent, in England, tried to register his brand littergram in December 2015 and has since met lawyers representing Instagram to explain his campaign.

He said his mission was to make littering as anti-social as drink-driving and to educate children.

In his video plea to Mr Zuckerberg posted on the BBC News website, he said changing his brand would "destroy all our ingenuity and hard work."

Bristows' letter said Instagram appreciates the project's social objectives and Mr Lucas's time, money and effort but the name littergram was "still not acceptable."

It said the brand "utilises and relies on social media usage" and they could not allow its use "in relation to services which are core to its world renowned activities in this area."

The firm gave Mr Lucas three to six months to phase out the name.

Mr Lucas said he created the not-for-profit app after sending "telegram postcards" of litter photos to councils in 2014.

A Facebook spokesman said the motivation behind littergram was admirable and it had engaged in a conversation to see if there was a way for them to have an app that operated in a way that was different enough to Instagram to not risk infringing their trademark.

But Facebook said ultimately littergram was a photo-sharing app that operated in a similar way to Instagram and Facebook so they had therefore asked them to change their name.

The social network company said it hoped an agreement could be reached before the case reached the courts.