Sony’s attempt to trademark the term “Let’s Play” out from under the internet is looking like it’ll meet with failure, thanks to a new ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
That’s good news to thousands of YouTube video creators and their fans. “Let’s Play” is the common term applied to videos in which people play games while commentating over the experience. While many people ask, “Why would someone watch that,” the undeniable fact is that a huge number of people do—so much so that the most prominent YouTube personalities can make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars every year for their efforts.
Sony trademarking “Let’s Play” would suddenly give it a legal claim on an enormous number of YouTube videos using the term, which would probably mean all those video makers would have to change them. And it would mean nobody could call a video a “Let’s Play” without Sony’s go-ahead, and it might have given the company a path toward shutting down unauthorized videos of its games entirely.
Last month, Sony was denied a trademark on the term after the USPTO ruled it was too close to another trademark, “Let’z Play,” that another company already owned. But Sony still has a chance to fight for the mark. It seems unlikely it’ll win thanks to a filing from the McArthur Law Firm, a law firm in Los Angeles that specializes in copyright law as it applies to games. The objection cited tons of generic uses of the word “let’s play” on YouTube, and it seems the USPTO agreed with McArthur—it ruled the term is “merely descriptive.” McArthur wrote on its blog it thinks that’s pretty much the death of Sony’s trademark claim, since generic terms can’t be trademarks.
Sony still has a few months to make its case before a final ruling, but it seems like this particular attempt at ruining the cottage industry of people making videos about video games has been foiled.