If you’ve ever hit up YouTube to watch a video of someone else playing a game while providing commentary, you’ve seen what’s known as a “Let’s Play.” It’s a term used by a huge number of YouTubers, many of whom have found a way to make a living by providing insightful thoughts as they play—or more often, just the most ridiculous, inane jokes and shouting they can come up with. The kids love it.
Let’s Plays have become a huge phenomenon in the last five years or so, such that YouTubers like PewDiePie are actual, honest-to-god self-made millionaires. And it seems that recently, Sony decided it wanted a cut of the action. So it tried to trademark one of the most ubiquitous terms on the video sharing platform: “let’s play.”
Sony applied in October for the trademark, as Gamasutra reports, only to have the request denied by the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office on Dec. 29. But the government didn’t bounce Sony’s request because “Let’s Play” is a super-generic term used by thousands of people for years to make their legitimate videos. Instead, it was because of potential confusion with another, already owned mark: “Let’z Play.”
And the refusal for the trademark is not the office’s final word on the situation, either, as Sony has six months to reply to the non-final action and argue its case. When that’s done, the office will lay down a definitive ruling on whether Sony can own the words “Let’s Play.”
We reached out to Sony for comment on this story, but didn’t receive a response. It’s hard not to see the company’s attempt at trademarking words from the titles of thousands of YouTube game videos as anything other than an attempt to screw over the people creating those videos. Sony owning the official trademark would mean it could control who could use the term “Let’s Play” and who couldn’t, and would allow the company to co-opt years of groundwork laid by players in popularizing the term for its own business. That’s, uh, pretty scummy.