Chris Vizzini registered the trademark “Gaymer” in March of 2008. More recently he’s started trying to enforce his trademark by sending a cease-and-desist letter to Reddit, which has a large, active, vocal gay gamer community in the r/gaymers subreddit. If you know anything about Reddit communities, you’ll not be surprised that they’ve rallied to fight against Vizzini’s efforts to shut them down:
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.
The stakes were raised again when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) became an active participant:
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.