With the Sony LET’S PLAY trademark behind us, the internet took a sigh of relief that all was right in intellectual property land again. However, not even a week later, the pitchforks are back out. This time, The Fine Bros. (popular YouTube channel) are in hot water for registering a trademark for the word REACT under “entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people.”
That’s a lot of legalese for “making YouTube videos.” If you make reaction videos, which a lot of YouTubers do, you are potentially in a lot of trouble. If you don’t make reaction videos, but you care about free speech and keeping the internet safe from ludicrous trademarks, you should be concerned as well. Where this story differs from the Sony story, is that the Fine Bros actually got approved! So, some quick and important facts:
- We are entering a public opposition phase.
When a trademark examiner approves a trademark, like they did here, they put it forward for publication. On the date of publication, the public has 30 days to file an opposition. Had the Fine Bros kept quiet for another month, they almost certainly would have gotten this trademark, as no one seemed to notice it. Instead, they announced their ridiculous licensing program and turned all eyes on them. How they were not advised to remain silent a bit longer? No idea. But I can tell you that it was a huge mistake, and one that they will regret. Not only are they experiencing a terrible PR disaster right now, I am also assisting a large group of streamers and content creators in an opposition, pro bono (that means free), because I’m extra pissed about this one.
- It’s as bad as it looks.
I’ve seen a lot of people arguing that this is just them protecting their brand, and that they would never go around bullying people. We’ve seen that’s blatantly false as they have issued a plethora of C&D’s (if the reddit users claiming to have received ones are to be believed, which I think they are), and have even sent their fans to brigade programs like “Ellen” for doing a similar reaction bit. I watched Kids Say the Darndest Things. These guys didn’t come up with the idea of filming funny reactions from kids. And they certainly don’t own an entire genre of YouTube videos. It wasn’t their idea, and it’s not theirs to own or police.
- This is a TRADEMARK not a COPYRIGHT.
Those words are not interchangeable, so stop it! Trademarks are much more broad and powerful protection than copyright. They protect your brand and/or logos and slogans. They also protect against things “confusingly similar,” so it’s possible you could be sued for naming your video “Kids have emotions.”
- They already own two trademarks.
ELDERS REACT AND TEENS REACT are two trademarks they currently have registered. I will also be assisting my clients in cancelling both of those trademarks. It’s a bit more difficult than a straight opposition, but far from impossible. I believe we will win easily.
- They have applied for a lot more than just REACT
On top of REACT, they have also applied for, and have been approved for CELEBRITIES REACT, ADULTS REACT, PARENTS REACT. We will be opposing those as well. They also are applying for DO THEY KNOW IT?, KIDS VS. FOOD, LYRIC BREAKDOWN, PEOPLE V. TECHNOLOGY, and TRY NOT TO SMILE OR LAUGH. While those are all ridiculously generic and descriptive, in my opinion (they hate coming up with original ideas, huh?), we will not be opposing those just yet.
That wraps up where we stand now. I know it gets complicated fast, and I’m always happy to answer questions if you have them. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ping me on Twitter at @MrRyanMorrison. Also, spread the word, as the more people we have to oppose the better.