Sony’s attempts to trademark the term ‘Let’s Play’ hit a major road bump as a video game law firm files a letter of protest to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Towards the end of 2015, Sony was incredibly busy with trademarks. Not only did the company put in a filing for Day’s Gone, a game with online components, but Sony also made headlines for its attempts to trademark ‘Let’s Play’.
While the filing regarded the “electronic transmission and streaming of video games via global and local computer networks; streaming of audio, visual, and audiovisual material via global and local computer networks” the filing didn’t state whether or not the company planned to use the trademark for a marketing push or for something else entirely.
What is clear, however, is that Sony is having a lot of trouble getting the trademark through. After requesting more clarification from Sony, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) said that the trademark was “confusingly similar” to a trademark held by an American gaming company called Let’z Play. This didn’t kill Sony’s trademark attempts but one law firm may have just dealt the final blow.
A law firm that specializes in video game law – the McArthur Law Firm – recently filed a letter of protest against Sony’s Let’s Play filing. In the letter, the firm explained that “the term ‘Let’s Play’ is generic and…Sony should not have exclusive rights over it”. Citing over 50 pieces of evidence, the firm also noted how widely used the term is (even Jimmy Kimmel has spoken about Let’s Play videos) and according to a ruling this week, the USPTO vey much agrees with therm.
Although McArthur says that the previous Let’z Play ruling was a “minor nuisance”, a USPTO ruling from this week is quite straightforward. “Registration is refused,” says the USPTO, “because the applied-for mark merely describes a feature of applicant’s services”.
Many gamers, streamers and YouTubers will no doubt be happy with this victory, which McArthur describes as “lethal to Sony’s trademark application”. When the trademark filing came to light, many feared that Sony would begin to file copyright notices against Let’s Plays, forcing the creators to take them down. While YouTube itself has pledged to defend its creators regarding some fair use suits (paying up to $1 million of legal fees), if Sony took a bullish approach, then even YouTube wouldn’t be able to protect everyone.
Moreover, some are hoping that this will lead Sony to think more carefully about its treatment of the gaming community in future. The company has already come under fire for its treatment of streamers (the company temporarily banned PS4 players from streaming Until Dawn on Twitch) and so they hope that Sony will change its ways. Plus, other companies are embracing streamers and broadcasters rather than pushing them away, such as EA with its EA Play E3 2016 plans, and fans have their fingers crossed that Sony will adopt a similar strategy.