At approximately 7:00 p.m. pacific time, Sunday /r/Gaymers mod and creator MisterGhost posted a thread titled “Gaymers could be banned and deleted by tomorrow, please FUCKING READ!” In it he stated that the owner of Gaymer.org had sent Reddit a Cease and Desist order enforcing their 2008 trademark of the word gaymer and asking that /r/gaymers change their name or be taken down. An hour later, MrPookers posted another thread on behalf of himself and the rest of the mods called “/r/gaymers may be banned as early as Monday Morning. Here is what we, the /r/gaymers mods, know.” It was later explained that since MisterGhost was the subreddit creator, the mods decided he would write an emotional appeal while the rest of them updated everybody with the facts. Since Reddit has a strict rule against posting personal information, gaymer.org owner Chris Vizzini’s name was carefully left out of the conversation, although it was easy to find thanks to Google.
Around the time of MisterGhost’s initial post, an /r/askreddit thread also went up asking the larger community what could be done in defense or /r/gaymers. By Monday morning, the thread had made it to the front page, inciting the full fury of the now infamous reddit army. Under the weight of their mighty bandwidth hammer, gaymer.org went down at around 10 a.m. and is still down at the time of this writing (10 p.m.) Threads and comments of solidarity flooded /r/gaymers, and the community itself posted a flurry of images and comments in defense of their home.
Offerings of financial and legal help flew in. It was suggested by one redditor that the solution to their trademark problem might be as easy as filing a $300 challenge with the US Patent Office.
Under 15 USC 1064 you can file a petition to cancel a registration of a mark “within five years from the date of the registration of the mark, which in this instance is March 25, 2008*. Further, you can file a petition at any time if the registered mark becomes the generic name for the goods or services for which it is registered.
Now, there is a fee involved ($300). The likelihood of success is hard to say given the fact that this mark has been in use for so long; however, if it can be proved that the mark is generic in nature (as it describes ALL gay gamers) or it is merely descriptive, then the mark might be cancelled.
In response to reddit’s argument that gaymer is a common word and therefore untrademarkable, Vizzini claims that he had to issue the C&D in order to prevent just such a situation. In other words, gaymer is not currently a common word, but could become one if communities like /r/gaymer keep using it. Unfortunately, the gaymer.org owner seems to be running up a down escalator since the word can be traced at least as far back as a 1997 Usenet post in which user Lovecraft referred to themselves as a “gay gamer (gaymer?)” Although the usenet post could have been a fluke, a single incident that would have been lost to Internet history if not for the recent scandal, there’s also a Yahoo group founded in 2000 and a post on a now defunct D&D blog called gamegrene.com suggested that the terms “gaymer” and “dice queen” be admitted into the gaming lexicon, on the basis of their common use.
This isn’t the first time ‘gaymer’ has made trouble for Vizzini. Back in 2007 when he started the process of trademarking the word, gaygamer.net wrote an article touching on the scandal it caused. Unfortunately, due to gaymer.org’s aforementioned bandwidth issues, I couldn’t get on their forums to see first hand what the debate was on that site, but the comments on the gaygamer.net article indicate gaymers being concerned that just such an instance as this might happen if “gaymer” were to become a trademark. Gaygamer.net editor Fruit Brute asked “Should one person have control over the use of a blanket term that many people like to use to describe themselves be it online or in real life?” A user who called themselves DCGaymer wrote “Respectfully, I disagree that he and he alone should have control of who uses the term ‘Gaymer’ as it relates to Computer services and online gaming communities. If granted no one could register any name using the term gaymer in it, Gaymerdate.com, Gaymerlove.com guygaymers.com, girlgaymers.com….no one but Chris. That simply seem’s[sic] wrong to me,” but went on to say that if Vizzini decided to trademark gaymer.org instead of gaymer, they would be the first to donate to the legal fund. In the gaygamer.net article posted today, writer gogoedward pointed out that, considering the changes in the Internet at large since 2007, “the legal situation here becomes even murkier than it already was before.”
Attempts to contact Mr. Vizzini have, as yet, proved fruitless. Although he did complain that the editors of gaygamer.net failed to contact him before their post earlier in the day. Daily Dot writer Kevin Morris wrote in his article that “Vizzini did not respond to a request for comment on this story.” Vizzini did post on /r/gaymers under the name GaymerOrg stating that he “never asked for the sub-reddit gaymer to be removed,” but that he did ask for it to be renamed. He went on to say “I would never try to take something away from people that they hold so dearly. But I also can’t have the Gaymer name used in your community.”
He addressed the question redditors had asked regarding why GaymerCon had been promoted by gaymer.org even though it used the same name, saying that his trademark only covers online communities, and “should they ever add an online community, then I would have issue with that.” At aproximately 8:00 p.m. PST Monday redditor demoncorp spoke for the GaymerCon team, stating “We understand the legal challenges potentially at issue, but we feel that “gaymer” is a widely used, generic term and that what affects our brothers, sisters, and allies at Reddit affects us as well. We are in full support of our communities, and wish to lend our support however we can.”
At approximately 2:00 p.m. PST Monday, /r/gaymers mod synspark posted a thread in which he stated that the mods were in contact with an attorney, and that “the goal of any legal action would be for the sole purpose of liberating the term “gaymer” for use by the community at large.”
I exchanged messages with MisterGhost, who declined to say one way or another if they were definitely going through with the challenge to Mr. Vizzini’s trademark. He did acknowledge that the mods had several options, and were getting a lot of support. As for gaymer.org, MisterGhost said “I have never spoken to Mr. Vizzini, I was completely unaware of his site, I chose the name gaymers for lack of a better term after I had made a steamgroup. I wasn’t using his name to try and improve my own subreddit, that is fucking ridiculous. Like I said, Mr. Vizzini made no attempt to contact myself or any of the mods, we could have made a really great community had we even been aware that his site existed.” MisterGhost expressed remorse for gaymer.org’s crash, saying “he basically just tried to hit a baseball made of wasps with his dick.”
UPDATE: (4:07 a.m. PST Tuesday) Gay-nerds.com posts a run-down of the trademark laws and answers the question “Legally, Who’s In the Clear?”
UPDATE: (5:14 p.m. PST Thursday) Chris posted on the Gaymer.org forums saying “Ill be addressing this issue tomorrow in detail but I’m not taking the gaymer name away from reddit. You will still have use of it. “