(CN) – A blogger’s release of his claim to the word “gaymer” is a “big win” for gay video game enthusiasts and free speech rights, a digital rights group said.
Chris Vizzini had registered “gaymer” as a mark for his website gaymer.org in 2008 and claimed that his use of the term for computer-related services dates back to 2005. In August 2012, he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reddit over its operation of the Gaymers subreddit (/r/gaymers), which purports to represent a community of “more than 21,000” LGBT video game enthusiasts.
In a January petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the subreddit claimed that Vizzini had improperly registered the term. It said “gaymer” was generic and belonged in the public domain.
The group was represented pro bono by Perkins Coie and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
A play on the term gamer, given primarily to video games enthusiasts, gaymers share the same passion but also identify “with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community,” the group claimed.
Public use of the term dates to “at least the early 1990s,” when a “growing group of individuals within the gaming community began to use it to identify themselves,” the six-page petition added.
The Patent and Trademark Office canceled the mark last week noting that Vizzini had surrendered it voluntarily in July.
EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said the case should inspire vigilance in the agency.
“Gaymer is a term that everyone can use – including Vizzini – and we’re pleased that there is no legal question about that now,” McSherry said in a statement. “But the real tragedy is that this term was ever registered for a trademark in the first place. You shouldn’t have to go through a big legal battle to use a word you’ve used for years. The PTO must get more vigilant about the trademarks it allows to be registered in order to protect everyone’s free speech rights.”
Zack Karlsson, the subreddit’s representative in the trademark challenge, noted that the group had been “shocked” over Vizzini’s actions.
“Trademark is supposed to protect consumers from confusion, not to shut down discussion spaces and the names they have rallied around,” Karlsson said in a statement. “We were shocked that anyone would try to assert ownership rights in ‘gaymer’ and felt the term belonged to the public, not Mr. Vizzini.”
Judy Jennison, of Perkins Coie, said her firm was “thrilled.”
“We are thrilled with this result,” Jennison said in a statement. “It’s been a privilege to work with EFF and Zack to clean up the registry and support an open discussion.”
The Gaymers subreddit describes itself as “is a community for LGBT and straight alliance redditors. We host frequent voice and/or video chat nights, regularly play multi-player games together, talk about how totally rugged David Hayter is, how sexy Samus is in her zero suit, talk about how we love big Wii sessions, and playing with an Xbox all night long.”
Hayter, known for his voice work in the “Metal Gear Solid” video game series, was not officially involved in the trademark exchange.
Samus, or Zero Suit Samus, a curvy female character in the “Metroid” series, also was not involved in the challenge.
The subreddit’s post adds: “Expect to be offended by something you see here at least once.
“This is a community-based subreddit not solely dedicated to discussing gay themes in gaming.”
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