by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
let's play, trademark, vrpg


Sony On A Rampage Trademarking Common Terms: Attempted Registrations For 'Let's Play' And 'VRPG'

from the common-sense dept

It's no secret that Sony has never been shy about wielding trademark like a cudgel. That said, there seems to be something new brewing with the company in its recent attempts to trademark fairly common terms, worrying some that it would use those trademarks in the same heavy-handed way. The first of those attempts was the recent Sony filing for a trademark on the term "Let's Play", which any gamer will recognize as the term for popular YouTube videos showing games being played, often offered by well-known YouTube personalities. While the USPTO had already refused the trademark on the grounds that a prior mark for "Let'z Play" had already been registered, a law firm that specializes in gaming law jumped in to try and have the court instead declare that "Let's Play" is now a generic term.

In a blog post from the McArthur law firm, the company explained that in its letter to the USPTO it offered up fifty examples of how ‘Let’s Play’ has become a generic term. The most important part of this is that the letter needs to be taken into consideration before awarding a trademark. Sony does have time to respond to the US Patent and Trademark Office’s initial concerns with its trademark application. However, now the office also has evidence from a third-party showing why Sony shouldn’t be handed ownership of the term ‘Let’s Play’.
It would be difficult to imagine an argument against the notion that "Let's Play" is now a well-known generic term, given its widespread use by online personalities. More interesting is the attempt itself, in that Sony is certainly well aware of the term's status and use, yet it decided to try to lock up the term via trademark anyway, specifically for the uses in which it's currently employed. That isn't what trademark is for, of course, and it would be insane to see the USPTO award the mark and allow the possibility for an insane number of trademark actions based on Let's Play videos tied to advertising revenue. Blech.

But that attempt dovetails nicely with another attempted registration of a trademark by Sony, as the company has recently applied for a mark on the term "VRPG."
Filed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan (SCEJ) back in December, the trademark filing was listed online by the Japanese Patent and Trademark Office. The document is entirely in Japanese but DualShockers states that the filing is Class 9 (which is used for games) and “includes pretty much all the standard definition for game trademarks.” Unfortunately, there’s little else to go on, but one popular theory from fans is that VRPG actually stands for Virtual Role-Playing Game and relates to a new PlayStation VR game.
It's not clear yet that this is what "VRPG" stands for, but if it is, it will provide a wonderful litmus test for exactly how sane the USPTO is, because awarding that mark would be crazy. RPG is, of course, a standard term in gaming circles, making the application essentially all about the "V", another common abbreviation for all things virtual reality. Virtual reality is itself becoming a household term in gaming circles, with the renewed interest in VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift. Allowing Sony to own a mark on a term that describes what may shortly become an entire genre of the gaming industry is tantamount to a language monopoly that, far from serving the interests of the consuming public, instead serves only to carve out very commonly used terms for sole use by certain corporate interests.

This, as in the previous case, is simply not the aim of trademark provisions. There's nothing source identifying in a mark that essentially declares a product to be a virtual reality role-playing game. That's entirely too broad. So place your bets on exactly how sane the folks at the USPTO will be.

Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Sony, 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:48pm

    Taking the integrity out of Sony

    Oops, they beat me to it.

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

  • icon
    JeremyE (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 3:16pm

    Vivid VR

    In anticipation for the future market of VR Porn Vivid entertainment has filed for trademarks for the following the "Let's fuck" "Let's wank" and "Let's eat"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 3:47pm

    Other generic "VRPG" terms

    Well, we all know that RPG can stand for Role Playing Game, and that prefixing something with V generally indicates "Virtual".

    But when I saw VRPG, what I imagined was a Nintendo Light Gun -- you know, the original Virtual Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 3:53pm

    I'm going to trademark "Fuck Sony" and sue everyone everywhere who ever had to deal with Sony.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 4:19pm

    Sony are maybe trying to show they are worse than nintendo ,
    with regard to youtubers or game streamers on youtube .
    Imagine they take down or get the revenue from all video,s from all lets play videos on youtube or ign ,gamespot .
    You think nintendo ,s attitude to gamers on youtube is bad .
    I wonder could they get a trademark on tech blogs
    bloggers blogs game streaming subscibe to my channel
    upload videos blogging give me a like
    rss feed video ads online video ads in webpages
    video streaming online ,
    then they could just sue 1000,s of websites .
    Who cares about fair use when i can trademark words in common use for a decade and sue everyone that dares to
    make a video showing a game being played online .
    can i trademark abblocking adblockers private mode for web browsers things i did
    not invent .
    But i have a good lawyer who know,s how to submit a trademark application on terms in common use since 2005.

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

  • identicon
    DigDug, 20 Jan 2016 @ 4:42pm


    Virtual Reality Play Ground

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

  • icon
    Boojum (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 4:53pm

    So iPhone is all about the i?

    I'm sorry, but by this reasoning isn't the i in iPhone all about the i? After all, phone is generic and commonly used. I suspect that this will be granted the same as iPhone was to Apple.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 7:47pm

    USPTO response: Approved.
    Out computer was so old our copy of IE was no longer supported, I was unable to see if the mark had been used by others on that U Tube thing as others had claimed.

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

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