Monday, January 11, 2016

"Let's Play" Trademark?

So...Sony is attempting to trademark the term "Let's Play" for unknown reasons. They filed the paperwork just a few months ago in October, and the status was last updated at the end of December. It was found out by uses on NeoGaf this week through random searches and filings. Because that is what one does with their free time.

But let's take a step back and think about this for a moment. Sony is trying to trademark a term that has been used on the internet for some time, with it's recent iteration acting as a reference to videos of people playing games. It's as simple as that, really. It's become a phenomenon over the years, producing personalities such as Pew-Die-Pie and Markiplier. RoosterTeeth currently holds the name on YouTube, along with millions of subscribers. I have my own series of Let's Play content in both video and blog format. It's not a product that has one definition or tangible means.

What makes the trademark unusual is that Sony is attempting to hold claim to an entertainment medium. Let's Play isn't one particular style of video, commentary, or use. It's taking a concept that was created by a community and attempting to place ownership on it. Which is even more difficult given that the history of Let's Play content began with forums and pre-YouTube days where people would comment on screenshots and have group playthroughs of games while recalling their events via text. With the medium encompassing so many different types of content, it's not something that can easily be nailed down and trademarked. It's no different then saying "I came up with the written word, therefore all forms of writing belong to me."

Which sounds utterly ridiculous now that I've typed it out. Essentially, that's what Sony wants to do. They want to trademark a community concept that is ambiguous and constantly evolving as it ages.

It very well could be that this is purely for marketing purposes and to utilize the phrase in an advertisement. Maybe Sony does not intend to pursue a full trademark and impose it upon Let's Play content. But the trademark filing also states "streaming of video games via global and local computer networks." Typically for an ad, they wouldn't need to provide such details of what the service is for. Merely that they want to use it and not get into trouble.

Maybe it's re-branding of the PS4 or for a new handheld system? Or maybe Sony really is trying to trademark the phrase and claim ownership on a community-created medium. Several news outlets are waiting to hear a response from Sony to clarify the trademark request.

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