EFF Joins r/Gaymers’ Fight Against Trademark HolderBy: Josh Wolford - January 23, 2013
One reddit community, with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is taking on a trademark holder who they say was wrongfully granted a trademark registration for a term that belongs in the public domain.
Gaymer is a broad term used to describe members of the LGBT community, who also happen to be avid gamers. The terms has been around since the early 90s, according to the EFF.
r/gaymers is a subreddit with over 21,000 subscribers. There, members of the gaymer community discuss games, host video chats, schedule multiplayer sessions – you know, gamer stuff. A lot of the content posted to r/gaymers doesn’t necessary have to do with gaming – some of it centers on the LGBT experience. They’ve been under attack from Chris Vizzini, “gaymer” trademark owner and operator of the website gaymer.org. He sent a cease and desist letter to r/gaymers back in August of 2012, requesting that reddit “cease and desist any further use of gaymer in association with reddit’s services and requested that reddit respond to the letter by assuring Registrant of reddit’s compliance with the terms of the letter.”
Instead of complying with that request, members of r/gaymers lawyered up and now they have the EFF on their side, who have filed a petition against Vizzini’s registered trademark on the “gaymer” term.
You can check out the full petition here.
Vizzini has taken to reddit (about 4 months ago, around the time of the cease and desist letter) to defend his position:
As a trademark and word mark holder, it’s my responsibility to defend the marks, otherwise I could lose them.
I started Gaymer.org in 2003 and began to build Gaymer as a brand. Thats why I trademarked and word marked the name. At that time, there was only one other site around dedicated to gay gamers. I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on Gaymer.org. I have done so gladly as it’s brought happiness to many people.
I have received many nasty emails and comments on my site, not to mention what’s been said on the reddit site.
I cannot stress this enough. I have no problem with other gay gaming sites. I think it’s great others exist. The only problem I have is when the Gaymer name is used. That infringes on the word mark. A perfect example of this is gaygamer.net. Its a great website for gay gamers but does not use “gaymer” in its name therefore I have no problem.
He went on to say that he didn’t want the r/gaymer subreddit removed, just renamed.
Member or r/gaymer and the EFF don’t buy it, however.
“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.”
And here’s what r/gaymer mod ozuri had to say in a lengthy post:
Personally, I rely on intellectual property law for my livelihood. I work in video games and my career benefits directly from the existence and enforcement of trademark and copyright law (though I am acting here simply as an individual and do not represent my company in any fashion). So I’m not someone who is anti-intellectual property protection. For me, digital IP protection is about not penalizing creative people in the digital space simply because they lack the ability to protect their ideas the same way they can in the physical world. I also believe that spurious claims like the one asserted by gaymer.org undermine the legitimacy of the system and give breath to a vocal group of individuals who believe that the system is inherently broken.
Second, reddit is not a haven for trademark infringement. They will not protect you if you infringe a trademark. But this case isn’t about infringement, it’s about harassment and the enforcement of an illegitimately granted trademark. Specifically, we believe that an entity should not be allowed to co-opt a group’s identity for personal enrichment, power, or ego.
So the actions we have taken are not because we don’t believe in intellectual property protection. They are because we believe the term “gaymer” is a word that should remain in the public domain, free for use and not “owned” by any particular individual or organization.
It’s an interesting case, as it appears that reddit’s LGBT gaming community isn’t backing down. What do you think about the trademark? Should the term “gaymer” be able to be registered?