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Sony Your Rights Online

Sony Attempts To Trademark "Let's Play" 111

An anonymous reader writes: Why is it that kids these days spend days upon days watching people play video games on Youtube and Twitch when they could spend those days playing games themselves? While we may never find out why, Let's Plays are an established part of today's gaming ecosystem, and the publishers want their piece of the pie. Nintendo lost love by forcefully taking the proceeds from ad revenue on Youtube for its videos, but Sony... never settling for second-best... has recently filed to trademark the phrase. I don't know what's more surprising: Sony's audacity to grab a phrase with recorded usage as far back as 2007... or that EA didn't think of it first.
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Sony Attempts To Trademark "Let's Play"

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  • Not going to work... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cinnamon Beige ( 1952554 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:01PM (#51272835)
    While I'm not a lawyer, I'm pretty sure that "Let's play" by itself is pretty much impossible to trademark due to the basic rules of getting a trademark (as put by Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]), though they might be able to claim it in the form of a particular logo incorporating the words...which wouldn't let them go after Let's Plays but might let them start sponsoring/branding their own Let's Play group.
    • While I'm not a lawyer, I'm pretty sure that "Let's play" by itself is pretty much impossible to trademark

      Let us hope...although my guess is that Sony wouldn't have done this without running it by a room full of lawyers. Maybe they were told that they couldn't trademark it, but to "give it a shot anyway" just to see if the courts would fall for it.

      • While I'm not a lawyer, I'm pretty sure that "Let's play" by itself is pretty much impossible to trademark

        Let us hope...although my guess is that Sony wouldn't have done this without running it by a room full of lawyers. Maybe they were told that they couldn't trademark it, but to "give it a shot anyway" just to see if the courts would fall for it.

        Actually, going deeper into trademark law, odds are this went through precisely as many lawyers as their idea of infecting computers with rootkits did--0 lawyers who knew that the correct answer is "As your lawyer, my advice is that you stop taking any illegal drugs." Let's Play is a generic term, and the odds are that it might get past a judge but the endgame will be at least one judge laughing them out of court... They probably ran it past as many (competent) PR people as they did (competent) lawyers, t

        • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:49PM (#51273085) Homepage Journal

          Let's Play is a generic term

          So is "Just do it", "I'm loving it" and "Enjoy".
          What was your point again?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            McDonald's actually wasn't able to trademark "I'm loving it" because it was to vague and common, that why they have it as "I'm lovin it". That small change lets them get away with it

          • 'Let's play' is not a generic term.
            It is a slogan made from two (actually three) generic words.

            Most certainly it is trademark able. 'Play' or 'Play!' might not be enforceable as a trademark, 'Let's Play' for sure is. No idea why /.ers never even consider to read the actuall laws in question.

            • Laws are often written in such a way as to be open to a number of different interpretations. My Dad's a lawyer, though it's been quite awhile since he's been one by trade, and the things he's described to me... (shudder).
          • Let's Play is a generic term

            So is "Just do it", "I'm loving it" and "Enjoy". What was your point again?

            Offhand? That I know what a generic term is, in this context, or at least how to look up things. Better comparisons would be 'salt' and 'Kleenex,' the latter of which is somewhat famous for having lost its trademark precisely because it became a generic term. Seriously, it's the textbook example.

            The ones you mention are, respectively, most likely due to consistencies between ad campaigns, trademarked as a logo, as jingle+logo (and as an anon points out, "I'm loving it" was still too generic), and a logo.

            S

            • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

              According to that page, Kleenex is still an active trademark that is used by the general population as a generic term. It doesn't appear that they lost the trademark though. Aspirin however has been ruled generic at least in the US.

          • Trademarks are specific to the thing (and the brand) you're promoting under the mark. "Just do it" wasn't generally used for shoes before. "I'm lovin' it" wasn't generally used for fast food before. I could market a line of shoes with "I'm lovin' it" and McDonald's could not win a case against me as long as I could establish I was not creating confusion with the McDonald's brand. If you're referring to the infamous "Enjoy Cocaine" case, in that case they were not trademarking just "Enjoy", but rather su

        • Actually, going deeper into trademark law, odds are this went through precisely as many lawyers as their idea of infecting computers with rootkits did--0 lawyers who knew that the correct answer is "As your lawyer, my advice is that you stop taking any illegal drugs."

          The present day use of lawyers, as personified by the Bush the second era is that you do what you want to do, and your lawyers make up some shit that tries to make it sound legal.

    • I'm pretty sure that "Let's play" by itself is pretty much impossible to trademark due to the basic rules of getting a trademark

      As opposed to say, "Windows?" Or "Word?" Or "Salesforce?" Or "Cloud?" Or "Boston?" Or "Oracle?"
      Almost anything can be a trademark, that's not a problem. The question is whether they'll be able to use it to harass LPers. That would be a problem.

    • According to this article:

      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/... [pcmag.com]

      Sony's request has been denied because it's too confusing to a trademark that already exists: "LP Let'z Play," which is too likely to cause "consumer confusion" that Sony's offering is in some way related to Let'z Play of America's trademark.

      • A quick check at the US Patent and Trademark Office says it's a live application. The database search is here. [uspto.gov]

        • I looked at the entry and it's in "Non-final action", which could mean that Sony has been handed the preliminary judgement and now has to decide whether to accept it or appeal the judgement? I'm not familiar with the Trademark process so I'm guessing here. However, the story from the PC Mag site seems pretty plausible. The "Let'z Play" trademark appears to be in the same domain as Sony's "Let's Play" trademark would be, if it were approved.
    • "think different" "I'm loving it" "the real thing", all of those are trademarked and they are as generic as shit so don't be surprised when Sony ends up getting this trademark, immediately followed by suing the shit out of every lets play on YouTube.
      • Since you probably missed it because it was mentioned by an AC: "I'm loving it" was deemed too generic. I don't remember the other two well enough, but you can trademark things other than words--I'm not a lawyer, I just actually paid some attention when lawyers talked about these things.

        Clicking through to the link in my original post might have helped you here, as this is from the same page:

        A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others, although trademarks used to identify services are usually called service marks.

        The page also covers things like just how much you can cover with a trademark--right here [wikipedia.org].

        • "think different" is a registered trademark of Apple, "the real thing" is registered to Coke, and of course "Windows" is owned by MSFT even though its literally the most generic word you could possibly come up with. This shows the trademark system is broken no matter how you slice it.
    • by strstr ( 539330 )

      Sony still had a lawyer file for this trademark and so Sony's lawyer probably has a different opinion than you. Sony believes they can and will take the trademark.

      obamasweapon.com [obamasweapon.com]

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:01PM (#51272837)

    Everything must be owned, including common words and phrases. Otherwise someone might be making money off of it and it wouldn't be us!!

    • It's so unamerican to charge nothing for nothing!

    • by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:42PM (#51273055) Homepage Journal

      It's called "enclosure". It's the desire by individuals and companies to take common culture and own it exclusively, renting it back to us.

      • also rent seeking, orthodoxy, assimilation, or "embrace, extend, extinguish". The same business model has many names.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        and all it takes is an Act to be passed by the best politicians money can by and anything you once thought was free or part of the commons becomes privatized. Usually it goes through government hands first.

        1. It's the commons, everyone knows who it doesn't belong to.
        2. Government take control to protect the commons.
        3. government demonstrate inefficiency in management of something that didn't need management before
        4. answer = privatization to increase efficiency, everyone knows who it does belong to.

      • It's called "enclosure".

        It's called "Being a bunch of greedy assholes".

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        It's called "enclosure".

        No, it is called enclosure(r)(tm).
        For additional information, please contact our legal department.

    • Just remember that Intel tried to trademark I, and both Zilog and Datsun/Nissan tried to trademark Z.

      And just try to have anything pink and health related now...

  • They will just have to change it to 'Lets PAY!'.

  • I think that it can make sense to trademark a logo, with an specific font, colors and design that says "Let's Play", but trademarking the "word phrase" should not be valid.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Won't Sony be causing brand confusion by naming their brand after a well established term in their field of business?
      Now all of a sudden, when people are talking/writing about "Let's Play", readers won't be able to tell whether they're talking about the fun free thing or the undoubtedly evil Sony thing.

    • Make sure you get the mark correctly here. This isn't a copyright, it is a trademark issue and something that is decidedly very different. It is really silly to confuse intellectual property [gnu.org] as if it is all one and the same.

      Then again, I've seen even supposedly competent lawyers screw the terms up and even misapply one kind of law with another.

      It all depends on what Sony plans on doing with the phrase that will determine just how silly or useful the trademark will become. If Sony is doing to be adding ho

      • .

        If Sony is doing to be adding hooks into their consoles to encourage YouTubers to make videos of games on those consoles as some sort of special console feature.... I'd be very supportive of the idea. The one click hooks that Mojang put into Minecraft (to give an example) that allows content to be streamed directly to Twitch could be expanded upon and simply installed by default into the next upgrade of the PlayStation line for all games played on that console.

        The PS4 has had the ability to stream to Twitch and Ustream since the Launch of the PS4..in November of 2013. Where the hell have you been to NOT know this? Living in the PC Gaming Ghetto?

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Do you think I give a shit about the Playstation at all?

          Besides, what I'm talking about is specifically the application as a sort of legal maneuver and trademarking the term as applied to its consoles, not the technical ability of getting it accomplished. What does Sony currently call their live streaming feature? Yes.... oh enlightened one.... do you know and can explain such things to us ordinary plebes?

          • Do you think I give a shit about the Playstation at all?

            Well then, why suggest that Sony add a livestreaming feature as a default feature (which it already is and has been for over 2 years) unless you gave a shit.

            What does Sony currently call their live streaming feature?

            They call it simply "Share"

            Yes.... oh enlightened one do you know and can explain such things to us ordinary plebes?

            By my standards, the average PC gamer, especially those in the UK or Europe, are ignorant plebes that are barely gamers at all. They tend to not know anything about any other gaming besides their tiny niche of it. Whether that niche be The Barrens, Summoners Rift, de_dust or The Warehouse. Or perhaps some Cricket, Soccer or

      • It all depends on what Sony plans on doing

        A scorpion was walking along the bank of a river, wondering how to get to the other side. Suddenly, he saw a fox. He asked the fox to take him on his back across the river.
        The fox said, "No. If I do that, you'll sting me, and I'll drown."
        The scorpion assured him, "If I do that, we'll both drown."
        The fox thought about it and finally agreed. So the scorpion climbed up on his back, and the fox began to swim. But halfway across the river, the scorpion stung him. As poi

  • Can't Play (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zenlessyank ( 748553 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:05PM (#51272863)
    This is really no different than pro/college football/basketball etc. Lots of peeps can't play for one reason or another so they watch someone else play who is good. It has been this way for thousands of years. Only real difference is that you can sit at home instead of walking down to the Coliseum.
    • Pretty much this. I don't understand why something that is already a cultural phenomenon world wide - watching people compete - is a mystery just because computers are involved.

      • "I don't understand why something that is already a cultural phenomenon world wide - watching people compete - is a mystery just because computers are involved."

        I think it somehow works the other way around: watching people playing a computer game is a 'reductio ad absurdum' of people watching sports. What you say is perfectly logical but, still, looking people gaming on computers seems stupid -because, in fact, looking people gaming, any game or sport, is stupid, only it doesn't look like that because it

        • I think the human body is programmed for maximum reward with minimal effort. If you can trigger your brain's reward center by vicariously watching someone else play the game then you still get the reward without needing to put in any effort. Just like rats starve to death if given a button that stimulates their reward center as it's simpler and easier to push the button than it is to actually eat.

    • You're conflating e-sports with let's play videos. I agree on the e-sports aspect that it's ridiculous.

      There is, though, a pretty good reason to watch a let's play video: You have seen the game, you think you might like it but you want to see what it really is like aside of what the showcase of the maker or Steam shows you. What is gameplay like? What does it feel like? Is there still a worthwhile game after 10 hours of playing?

      I can see why Sony would want to curtail this. And I, too, wonder why EA isn't t

    • I don't think that's all of it. I actually watch a let's play series for 7DTD because the players aren't all that great, they aren't half bad, but definitely not great. What makes it fun to watch though is their personalities and all the comedy that comes from their interactions.

      As a kid my brother, friends, and I used to take long turns at playing various games, with the other(s) perpetually parked on the couch or side chair. Let's Plays and streams are kind of an extension of that activity in my mind, par

  • by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:12PM (#51272899)

    The term actually came from Something Awful forums and the "Lets play" threads where they'd take turns playing a game and posting the results. Dwarf fortress "succession" games would be the cannonical example here.

    Sony has had no role in this, and they are trademarking something they have no right to.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @01:31PM (#51272987)

    "Non-binding action" was sent back in December, which is generally USPTO for fuck off.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's good, but how do we as people in the street influence this? It's perfectly possible that Sony could be given a trademark on this simply because the person making the decision is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the history of "Let's Play". And when a trademark has been granted, it's a lot harder to get it revoked. How do we ensure that whoever is examining the application has all the appropriate information to make the correct decision?

  • by robots (brainwashed humans) to do the "right" thing - every opportunity to increase profit and protect one's right about "property" needs to be realized. Hilarious happenings can be witnessed - enjoy! Who are the individuals doing this, so they can be applauded and admired?

  • Why is it that kids these days spend days upon days watching people play video games on Youtube and Twitch when they could spend those days playing games themselves? While we may never find out why

    Why is it that kids and adults these days spend days upon days watching people play sports games on TV and Cable when they could spend those days playing sports games themselves? While we may never find out why

    • ... watching other people eat on TV - it's not nearly a similar kind of fun and satisfaction.

      It's probably easier to explain why people watch other people play instead of doing it themselves: Because it's a totally passive "activity". Earlier generations may have chilled out more often dozing off in front of a TV. The current generation is less used to watching conventional TV than to "video clip streaming", so it seems plausible they doze off in front of a youtube channel more likely. It doesn't really mat

      • by dissy ( 172727 )

        But one thing that really puzzles me: Why are they watching average to below-average players? One would think that watching somebody play would be more fun if that person is especially good at it. From the samples I looked at, the most popular "let's play"ers are not at all talented...

        You may just not have found any let's players that are either good at what they do, or that appeal to you personally. (Especially if you only saw the "popular" ones ;) but that's another story)

        Or it could be any number of things. There are some really talented players I like, but if they are playing a game I have no interest in, there's not much they can do to make me interested.

        At least for me, the players personality also has to jive with mine, at least in certain ways. It can be a hard thing for me t

  • Back in the 1980s, Californian software company Epyx was said to own the trademark "Games" for anything video game / computer game related. They released titles like Summer Games, Winter Games, World Games, California Games -- all of these to great success. I do not know whether they actually ever sued anyone -- there were titles like "Eskimo Games" and "Alternative World Games" from other companies -- but they sure prevented anyone else from releasing Olympics-related sports games with any mention of "Game
  • Antonio Banderas and Columbia Pictures might has something to say [youtube.com] about this also...

  • Judging by Google's n-gram viewer, it appears to have been a terribly popular phrase in the 1950s.

  • Why is it that kids these days spend days upon days watching people play video games on Youtube and Twitch when they could spend those days playing games themselves?
    Because you learn from pros by watching them how they play?

    Also like any good made movie: it is relaxing to watch it, while it is tough to make it.

  • How about if I trademark "Bite Me, Sony!" ??

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