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.

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

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

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

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.”


How DARE they Google rank highly and steal ‘his’ traffic.

*pops some popcorn and waits for better penis jokes*

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: 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…?


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.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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