Trademarks on common terms are always a messy business, and Reddit is at the center of an interesting fight. Recently, the owner of “Gaymer.org” requested that Reddit change the name of their “r/gaymer” hub.
Predictably, Reddit’s users took offense to the oddly specific request, as their dynamic and expansive LGBT “subreddit” community actively serves over 16,000 subscribers and even more readers. Here’s part of the initial reaction to the news, as relayed to the subreddit group by moderator MisterGhost:
It would seem that the owner of gaymer.org is an incredible douchenozzle and has decided that we somehow are infringing upon his right to run a very subpar blog. Though Gaymercon seems to be A-OK. It seems pretty [expletive] up that they seem to be ok using the same GAYMER name, even though we aren’t making money.
It would be easy for us to argue that gaymers is just descriptive of Gay Gamers and is just descriptive mark and not some sort of corporate logo or trademark. Now if anyone has any question in regards to this claim: I am sure that the gentleman sending the cease and desist, who is bringing these claims against us would be happy to answer the questions of you 16,000 gaymers.
As a result, Gaymer.org is currently offline as the result of a DDOS (distributed denial of service attack), while website owner Chris Vizzini has been on the receiving end of various threats and biting remarks from around the Internet. Other Reddit users are being more proactive, compiling evidence to sort claims that “gaymer” isn’t a term that can be trademarked.
At a glance, it’s a tricky situation that doesn’t have an elegant answer.
“Gaymer” carries more common colloquial uses than it did several years ago, with various examples applying to forum boards, general Internet usage, and an upcoming convention dubbed “Gaymercon” by its staff.
Right now, members from both parties are reportedly working to get the situation resolved before this gets more out of hand than it is already. Vizzini has since gone to Reddit himself under the username “GaymerOrg,” further explaining his stance on when and where he feels the trademark applies, and why some uses don’t concern him:
I cannot stress this enough. I have no problem with other gay gaming sites. I think it’s great others exist. The only problem I have is when the Gaymer name is used. That infringes on the word mark. A perfect example of this is gaygamer.net. Its a great website for gay gamers but does not use “gaymer” in its name therefore I have no problem.
One thing that has been asked is why GaymerCon was not contacted. They do not have an online community. That is a convention. My marks pertain to online communities. Should they ever add an online community, then I would have issue with that. I did remove the GaymerCon article. While I do still support them personally, I can’t give them support on behalf of gaymer.org. They made disparaging remarks about my site without knowing the details. I do wish them well on their venture.
Factually, it does seem odd to imagine that “gaymer” is a term you can defend as a trademark. Quite odd, indeed.
As it stands right now, Vizzini is Public Enemy Number One to Reddit’s “r/gaymers” community, with the subreddit page still filled with back-and-forth dialogue about the issue. Regardless of what happens from here on out, the press coverage alone should be enough to force someone’s hand—and we’ll be listening to see if it goes to court.