EFF Goes To Bat For Reddit's Gay Gamers; Files Petition To Cancel Bogus 'Gaymer' Trademark

from the i've-never-heard-a-story-involving-someone-pissing-off-reddit-and-walking-aw dept

If you're going to send out a cease-and-desist based on a dubious trademark, one of the worst places you could send it is Reddit. Nothing stirs up this site more than a direct attack on one of its communities. What might have once seemed like a slam dunk suddenly becomes a minefield, one that a certain trademark registrant is currently navigating.

Four months ago, blogger Chris Vizzini sent a cease-and-desist to Reddit directed at the r/gaymers subreddit. The term in question is "gaymer" itself, which Vizzini registered in March 2008, and which cites his online forum, gaymer.org, as the first use in commerce. (His site went live in May of 2003.) According to the registration, Vizzini's "GAYMER" mark covers these goods and services.
Computer services, namely, creating an online community for registered users to participate in competitions, showcase their skills, get feedback from their peers, form virtual communities, engage in social networking and improve their talent; Computer services, namely, hosting and maintaining an online website for others to discuss, receive and disseminate information concerning video games; Computer services, namely, hosting on-line web facilities for others for organizing and conducting online meetings, gatherings, and interactive discussions.
The response was immediate. The first option presented was to change the subreddit's name. Others looked to see if the trademark could even be considered valid, tracking down examples of prior use, one of them dating all the way back to 1991. Also discussed was the possibility of licensing the term for a nominal fee, the downside being that even if Vizzini did accept, it would do nothing to prevent him from pursuing others who used the word "gaymer."

While the trademark's description seemed to cover a large portion of Reddit's "goods and services" (with a few notable differences), the discussion focused on whether or not Vizzini should have been able to trademark what many viewed as a descriptive or generic term.

Then, redditor richielaw informed r/gaymers that there was a third option, one which effectively tossed the ball back in Vizzini's court and put him on the defensive.
Actually, you can fight it. We can file a petition to cancel the registration of "Gaymers" for the stated purpose. Under 15 USC 1064 you can file a petition to cancel a registration of a mark "within five years from the date of the registration of the mark, which in this instance is March 25, 2008. Further, you can file a petition at any time if the registered mark becomes the generic name for the goods or services for which it is registered.

Now, there is a fee involved ($300). The likelihood of success is hard to say given the fact that this mark has been in use for so long; however, if it can be proved that the mark is generic in nature (as it describes ALL gay gamers) or it is merely descriptive, then the mark might be cancelled...
This being Reddit, the comment thread was soon filled with redditors throwing money in the direction of richielaw and his plan to make the aggressive registrant actually defend his trademark. If nothing else, the pushback might make Vizzini think long and hard (no pun intended?) about actively alienating a large part of the very community he had been courting with his own site for the past decade.

And, as if facing the wrath of united redditors wasn't enough, the EFF has now joined the push to have this trademark cancelled.
[I]n a petition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, the group asks the USPTO to cancel the "gaymer" trademark registration so that people around the world can continue to use the word without interference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represent the Reddit gaymers – members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in video games...

"This registration should never have been granted," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and make sure the term goes back to the public domain where it belongs."

"Trademarks have one primary purpose: to protect consumers from confusion about the source of goods or services," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "This registration isn't being used to protect consumers – it's being used to threaten free speech."
EFF's petition cites the same complaints the redditors discussed: that the word "gaymer" is both generic and descriptive and that it predates Vizzini's application for exclusive use of the term (in relation to the services listed above -- there's also an unrelated Gaymer line of ciders). Whether or not the USPTO will find this argument convincing remains to be seen. Many dubious claims have made their way unscathed through the registration office in years past. The main benefit of this action is it puts the pressure on Vizzini to defend his claim to the term, something he may have no interest in doing.

Unfortunately, this is all too common -- IP law being exploited to shut down speech. Vizzini most likely has no problem with what these redditors are saying, but rather where they're saying it. In hoping to corner the market on gaymer discussion, he's eliminated himself from the conversation.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Alana (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 3:37am

    Reddit truly is the last boss of the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 3:38am

    This is so gay.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 4:08am

    Holy shitstorm, Batman! He's probably regretting the dumb move. Worse than that would be to trademark /b/ and threatening 4chan. Now that would be hilarious......

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 4:10am

    Re:

    I hold that community dear to me. They are the best bunch of weird, crazy and awesome people in the intertubes (with a few occasional average_joes here and there).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 4:20am

    Hmmm

    I wonder if the same could be done for Apple's trademark on glass walls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 4:43am

    Nice going, Vizzini, for pissing off a group that few aside from the batshit foolhardy would dare to piss off.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 4:49am

    Re:

    No, I am.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:00am

    Tim... long and hard... REALLY?
    There are so many better porn terms to chose from. If your gonna do it, go big. :D

    You missed the coverage of his blog post where he isn't the bad guy... and people should donate to help him...

    "That inspired Vizzini to create his gaymer.org website back in 2003, and he has since built it into a community. "It was time and money I had spent, so I needed to protect the brand and sought to trademark the word in 2007," he wrote. But Vizzini didn't like the fact that Google searches for "gaymer" produced his website first, and then a link to /r/gaymers right underneath it. "My thinking was that those clicks that went to reddit searching the word Gaymer should have rightfully gone to my website," he wrote."

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/owner-of-gaymer-trademark-says-hes-an-underdog -not-a-bully/

    How DARE they Google rank highly and steal 'his' traffic.

    *pops some popcorn and waits for better penis jokes*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:15am

    Re:

    The bigger your blog traffic, the bigger your e-penis is!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:17am

    Re:

    Also, with these statements he has proven that he is an arsehole. As if his gaymer community should be the one and only. Selfish bastard with a huge sense of entitlement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:29am

    Re: Re:

    Not always true.

    I know that DTD and SJD are friendly with each other. They both run "competing" blogs about copyright trolls, but the community is more important than being the "true" troll blog.

    That really is how you get a good community, admittedly its a sucky community to end up joining - most of the membership is troll targets but they become part of the family.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Ricktoid, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:41am

    I can hear Vizzini now. "Reddit is fighting back INCONCEIVABLE!!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Old Fool (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:45am

    Caution: Dangerous animals.

    Going on Reddit is like poking a fire ant nest. It can be fun - but be cautious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 5:54am

    Re: Caution: Dangerous animals.

    And maybe just maybe... skip the honey scented lube.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Awwww, don't ruin the jokes! I almost thought you were gonna follow up with some e-STD got from e-backdoors =/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    nope my momma got me a keyboard condom

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 6:33am

    Is this guy for real? He wants to fight reddit over a descriptive term? I don't know man, reddit isn't something you can fight. It's fighting the internet itself. I think the dude is secretly a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, and is trying to start a civil war in the LGBT community. It's the only thing that makes sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 7:04am

    So you got some competition buuhuu... I respect Vizzini for building up a strong internet community, but the guy can't just take a term that is being used quite frequently now and think he owns it.
    I always find it remarkable to look upon an internet community fighting back. I really enjoyed being part of Stop SOPA and Stop ACTA because it demonstrates that on the internet; we, the people, are the rulers. We will do it again, and I can't wait, because the tidal-wave of the internet really is a sight to behold.... and I think we could really use one soon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 7:14am

    Re:

    "*pops some popcorn and waits for better penis jokes*"

    HEEEERE I COME (NO PUN INTENDED!), TO SAVE THE DAAAAAAAY!

    You know, I've tried to tell Cush to leave the penis jokes to us pros, but sometimes he goes off all half-cocked...............get it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re:

    mmmm salty....

    :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Michael Barclay (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re: "Inconceivable"

    Or to be more precise: "Mr. Vizzini, you keep using the word 'gaymer.' I do not think it means what you think it means."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Loki, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: "Inconceivable"

    Yeah, this battle (as such) sort of makes me thing of this scene:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_eZmEiyTo0

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re: Re: "Inconceivable"

    I pictured it more like this...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpBkc2jK-6w

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    Tim... long and hard... REALLY?
    There are so many better porn terms to chose from. If your gonna do it, go big.


    I knew it was weak, hence the question mark standing in for a shoulder shrug. Maybe if I'd played with it for a bit more, a better joke would have revealed itself, engorged with mirthy goodness and swollen with adjectives that would have made Mom believe she was just reading select excerpts from a Gurney's seed catalog... tumescent, mouth-filling, tender, vigorous, plump... um... ... self-fertilizing... ... hmmm... bulbous...?

    ON TO POINT B... AND QUICKLY!

    Yeah, I read his manifesto. In addition to what you point out, his other main point seems to be "I was persecuted as a gay gamer and therefore, have earned the exclusive right to this term." As if that's how life works. And as if the other gaymers fighting his trademark have never heard a disparaging word in their lives.

    I'm glad he decided to fight evil (and stupid) with good by starting his gaymer.org site, but I really don't see how his bad experiences somehow entitle him to claim a term that was never his to begin with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    ahow628 (profile), Feb 1st, 2013 @ 12:33pm

    Re:

    You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved with gay gamers on Reddit" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against a gay Sicilian when death is on the line"! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    I doubt it. Some people are just that dumb and THOSE people are definitely not smart enough to come up with or pull off such a thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 2nd, 2013 @ 12:00am

    Re: Re:

    How sad it is for me and other Tim to be outdone by a seed catalog... I'll have to try harder. :) Thanks for showing you can let it hang out with the rest of us low lifes. ;)

    Yes in the history of the world, he is the only person to hear gay based insults online. Because that is TOTALLY out of character for the average troll gamer.
    I've NEVER (sarcmark) been called "anti-gay slurs" online before... but they didn't know I was gay when they started that childish crap. Its insults meant to get under someones skin, challenge the manhood, etc. A good lesson to learn is in the end... its just pixels on a screen. Well that and the shock value in telling a mouthy macho guy "Sorry your not my type, I like men." Nothing screws with a 'homophobe' more than pointing out no you don't want them.

    Its nice that he built the site, its sad he can't see by trying to be the only place he is being as bad as the people that drove him to get started.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    ro, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Way to go EFF. Going to bat for folks when it counts most. well the minority anyway

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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