Sony's Attempt to Trademark "Let's Play" Foiled in U.S.

PatrickJS

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Sony's Attempt to Trademark "Let's Play" Foiled in U.S.

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Sony Computer Entertainment of America's attempted trademark of "Let's Play" has been refused by The United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Sony of America recently tried to trademark the phrase "Let's Play," only to have its efforts rebuffed by the USPTO. The reasons given were not because the phrase itself is so vague, or because it is already the title of countless YouTube videos, but because another company already owns a similar copyright.

Let'z Play of America, a company out of Georgia that gamers with gaming events, has held their copyright since 2013. The Trademark Office found the two claims to be "confusingly similar."

Just about every gamer has heard the phrase "Let's Play" before - many of us have even uploaded "Let's Play"s of ourselves. The users who create these videos, where they play through video games on camera while offering commentary, have had a difficult and complex relationship with the people who make and publish these games.

While we don't know what Sony's purpose was with the trademark attempt, it seems like it's another phase in the tug-of-war between fans and trademark holders. Nintendo has come under fire in recent years [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/124066-Nintendo-Suddenly-Claims-Ownership-Of-Many-YouTube-Videos] for its treatment of Let's-Players, eventually compromising with the controversial "Affiliates Program."

Of course, there is much going on here that I can't claim to understand. It may seem obvious to us that leaving the Let's-Players be is the best option for any game company, but we should consider that there are motivations beneath the surface that are just as obvious to the ones who hold them.

That being said, I'll open the floor to the Escapists. What are your thoughts on all this?

Source: USPTO [http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn86801899&docId=OOA20151229112407#docIndex=0&page=1]




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-Dragmire-

King over my mind
Mar 29, 2011
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I did think this would fail but I thought it would be for the reasons given in the article.

Glad they didn't succeed either way.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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So yeah, if people could... not... take down my LP content, that'd be great, thx.

I view LP'ing in the same light as sampling in music - LPers put out an entertaining product through their own effort, and end up boosting the work they used as a base. It makes it easier to put out that type of content, and if the sampled work looks interesting to the viewer, they now have a reason to seek it out and play it. I don't think it's to anyone's advantage to restrict it, market-saturation or not.
 

Li Mu

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Even if they did copywrite the name, users would just rename their stuff to 'I'm gonna play' or 'Playing...' or one of billion combinations. Sony would eventually have to copywrite the entire English language. But we'd then just start using other languages. Sony can't beat us. So why they even bothered to begin with is bemusing.
 

Ishigami

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I doubt they wanted to copyright strike every LP on YouTube and cash in... that sounds like a scheme of a 80ies Bond villain.
It is much more likely that they have plans for a service and wanted to connect to their PLAYstation brand by giving it a proper name.
Or they wanted to use it as marketing slogan.

Sounds less crazy don't you think?
 

Areloch

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Dec 10, 2012
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Take note guys, Sony was filing a TRADEMARK.

This is distinct to copyright.

Given that, even if there wasn't another group with a "confusingly similar name", Sony would have to defend against a pre-emptive distillation of term that trademarks can suffer, nullifying any legal bite their trademark may have had. All it'd take is 10 seconds on youtube to point out the millions of videos dubbed 'Lets Plays' to show that the term is already a generic one, and Sony has no concrete hold on the term.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark_distinctiveness
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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Let's play the patent/copyright/trademark drinking game. Every time a news outlet misuses the term "copyright" when they are actually discussing trademark or patent, take a shot. In this article, for example, you would take three drinks (plus maybe another half shot for the Nintendo Creator's Program mention which is, in fact, copyright and uses the term correctly, but is also utterly irrelevant for that very reason).

P.S. Thanks
 

IamLEAM1983

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Aug 22, 2011
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Areloch said:
Take note guys, Sony was filing a TRADEMARK.

This is distinct to copyright.

Given that, even if there wasn't another group with a "confusingly similar name", Sony would have to defend against a pre-emptive distillation of term that trademarks can suffer, nullifying any legal bite their trademark may have had. All it'd take is 10 seconds on youtube to point out the millions of videos dubbed 'Lets Plays' to show that the term is already a generic one, and Sony has no concrete hold on the term.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark_distinctiveness
Okay, but why did they even bother, then? Is there that much money to make out of a hypothetical "Let's Play" trademark?

I'll add that in some ways, I understand why they did that. The PS4 has been established as a platform focused on play, as opposed to its biggest competitor, the Xbox One. They tried going for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, and we know how that turned out. Considering, this move strikes me as delayed gloating or the attempt to use a catchphrase on the platform's benefit. As if "Let's play!" struck most ears as meaning "Let's play on my PS4!"
 

CaitSeith

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PatrickJS said:
That being said, I'll open the floor to the Escapists. What are your thoughts on all this?
My first thought was: Everybody hang on something on the wall! There's no floor anymore!!!

OT: Copyrighting "Let's Play"? What the heck is wrong with those men in suits!? That's reaching King (Candy Crush) level of absurdness! I wonder what they were planning to do once they got the copyright. I hope it wasn't going to be something shitty like striking every Yotube video with "Let's Play" in the title. But I'm totally OK that they didn't get away with it.
 

Areloch

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Dec 10, 2012
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IamLEAM1983 said:
Areloch said:
Take note guys, Sony was filing a TRADEMARK.

This is distinct to copyright.

Given that, even if there wasn't another group with a "confusingly similar name", Sony would have to defend against a pre-emptive distillation of term that trademarks can suffer, nullifying any legal bite their trademark may have had. All it'd take is 10 seconds on youtube to point out the millions of videos dubbed 'Lets Plays' to show that the term is already a generic one, and Sony has no concrete hold on the term.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark_distinctiveness
Okay, but why did they even bother, then? Is there that much money to make out of a hypothetical "Let's Play" trademark?

I'll add that in some ways, I understand why they did that. The PS4 has been established as a platform focused on play, as opposed to its biggest competitor, the Xbox One. They tried going for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, and we know how that turned out. Considering, this move strikes me as delayed gloating or the attempt to use a catchphrase on the platform's benefit. As if "Let's play!" struck most ears as meaning "Let's play on my PS4!"
I'd wager that, if anything, they were hoping that anyone that had an issue with them trying to take over the term wouldn't have the money to put up any kind of legal resistance.
As you say, no doubt they were hoping to retool the term to be PS4-centric.
 

RonHiler

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Patrick:

You seem to be using the terms Trademark and Copywrite interchangeably. e.g.
"Sony's Attempts to Copyright "Let's Play" Foiled in U.S.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America's attempted trademark of "Let's Play" has been refused by The United States Patent and Trademark Office"

I assure you, these are two entirely separate and distinct things, quite different from each other. And in fact to me it's making your article a little tricky to understand. I get the impression that Sony was attempting to Trademark the name (a MUCH more evil thing to do than copywrite it).

I don't know if Let'z Play of America actually hold a trademark or a copywrite from this article (I suspect the former?? Otherwise I don't think it could be used as an argument for not giving Sony the trademark, since copywrites are beyond easy to get [in actual fact, EVERYTHING you write/create, if it's an original piece, is AUTOMATICALLY copywrited without you having to do anything further, though you can take it a step further and register that copywrite if you wish to]).

If it's true that Sony is attempting to Trademark a commonly used name for showing gameplay, it makes me wonder what their intentions were. Conceivably they could have caused quite a bit of chaos in the YouTube community (which perhaps was their goal? Maybe not, but it wouldn't mean anything good for that community).

Just a suggestion, you might want to clarify the article a bit :)
 

bluegate

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Trying to trademark the phrase "Let's Play" was most likely done for marketing purposes, making preparations for a new marketing push for their Playstation platforms.

Would be dickish if they were granted the trademark and people would have to start calling their let's play video's something else.
 

PatrickJS

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At first I thought this was about a patent or at least related to one - As far as I understand, PS4 controllers have a broadcast button to make LP's on the fly, so it'd make sense to put some sort of claim on this technology by branding it with a trademark as well.

Another possibility might be doing something similar to what Nintendo has done, trying to make it easier to take over monetization of videos with their games.

Chances are though, that it's something innocuous and just related to ads or a campaign...
 

2xDouble

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Rooster Teeth LLC, specifically one Geoff Ramsey, already owns the title and trademark to Let's Play.
 

Fox12

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lacktheknack said:
So yeah, if people could... not... take down my LP content, that'd be great, thx.

I view LP'ing in the same light as sampling in music - LPers put out an entertaining product through their own effort, and end up boosting the work they used as a base. It makes it easier to put out that type of content, and if the sampled work looks interesting to the viewer, they now have a reason to seek it out and play it. I don't think it's to anyone's advantage to restrict it, market-saturation or not.
It could have been a nefarious attempt to ruin Lets Play's, but I think it's far more likely that they were just trying to cash in on a well known video game phrase. They were probably going to use it as a slogan for a new service. Kind of like how Disney copyrighted Seal Team Six after Bin Laden died. It's still kind of scummy, but I doubt their intentions were actively nefarious. If Sony was serious about cracking down on Youtube Lets Play's they probably would have done so by now.

But they're a corporation, so who knows?
 

KoudelkaMorgan

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How do you even get something so generic trademarked? Why not go after "lets drink" "lets party" "lets meditate" while you are at it?

I guess we can just trademark any two word phrase we didn't even invent huh?
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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KoudelkaMorgan said:
How do you even get something so generic trademarked? Why not go after "lets drink" "lets party" "lets meditate" while you are at it?

Is "fuck off" already trademarked?
Let's not forget that a few years ago they attempted to trademark P.S. Thanks, and then proceeded to not do anything with it. Sony loves frivolous trademarks.

P.S. Thanks
 

Zydrate

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Other than Rooster Teeth/Achievement Hunter, I tend to use Let's Plays as a sort of "Show me the first hour of the game", and it has actually led to a few purchases.
(As for RT/AH, I pretty much watch 85% of everything they put out because it's great).
 

Johnny Novgorod

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If they really want to feed on YouTube content they should take the Nintendo way. Copyrighting LPs is a harder battle.
 

JLF

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They should have gone after the word "PLAY" instead, just to make it bit more simpler. Remember candy crush SAGA...