In 2007, owner of Gaymer.org Chris Vizzini announced his intent to trademark the term "gaymer
," sparking a community controversy: Even though not everyone affiliated with the word itself, it was a commonly used bit of jargon, similar to "pwn" or "noob." Did Vizzini have the right to trademark such a common word?
Legally he did. In March 2008, Vizzini's trademark on "gaymer" passed registration and it is live today. The trademark applies to online communities, "hosting and maintaining an online website for others to discuss, receive and disseminate information concerning video games," specifically. In the interest of protecting his mark, Vizzini today sent a cease and desist letter to Reddit community /r/gaymers
, which has more than 16,500 members, claiming infringement.
Reddit admins don't plan to ban the subreddit, but it will need to rename or find a compromise with Vizzini. This is an "unprecedented" situation for Reddit, but it is a serious problem, admin spladug
"I informed the mod team of /r/gaymers that we'd received a cease and desist letter for infringement of the 'gaymer' trademark and that our legal counsel had informed us that the letter presents a real threat that they would sue reddit. I let them know so that they could start planning how to respond (including seeing if there's any way for them to work things out with the owner of the trademark)."Vizzini says
he sent the cease and desist because, as a trademark holder, he has to defend his mark or risk losing it. He says he emailed Reddit twice asking for the community to change its name, but got no response. "I started Gaymer.org in 2003 and began to build Gaymer as a brand," Vizzini writes. "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."
Vizzini isn't pursuing next year's GaymerCon
gathering since his trademark applies only to online communities. The /r/gaymers community and other sites, such as GayGamer.net
, are discussing the issue and the larger implications of trademarks and online forums. We raised the question
of popular phrases being "owned" when Vizzini first announced the trademark, and it's no less relevant now.
As of today, Gaymer.org
itself is "suspended," though whether this is due to an unintentional DDOS attack or reasons unrelated to the Reddit attention is unclear.