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r/gaymers under attack?

Updated to include the official statement from Gaymer.org
rgaymersvsgaymer.png

Today the more than 16,000 subscribers to r/gaymers, the gay gaming community on Reddit, received news that their subreddit may very well be shut down. The r/gaymers moderators were informed that Reddit had received a cease and desist from the owner of Gaymer.org, Chris Vizzini, who filed a trademark for the term 'gaymer' in 2007. Longtime readers surely remember that story and the heaps of controversy surrounding it.

The trademark was filed as follows:

IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Computer services, namely, creating an online community for registered users to participate in competitions, showcase their skills, get feedback from their peers, form virtual communities, engage in social networking and improve their talent; Computer services, namely, hosting and maintaining an online website for others to discuss, receive and disseminate information concerning video games; Computer services, namely, hosting on-line web facilities for others for organizing and conducting online meetings, gatherings, and interactive discussions. FIRST USE: 20030526. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20030526

Some supported Vizzini's move with the perspective that he has every right to protect the name of the website he created, while others argued that trademarking the term 'gaymer' would lead down a slippery slope by giving Vizzini and Gaymer.org complete control of the word's use as a web entity. Still others were apathetic to the controversy altogether, preferring to not call themselves gaymers at all.

It must be said that, in 2007, the term 'gaymer' did not have the widespread use and appeal it seems to carry with it today. What's more in the mere six years since 'gaymer' was trademarked the way people use the internet has changed rather drastically. In 2007 filing a trademark to protect onesself against web entities using the term 'gaymer' carries some logic; the hypothetical www.finalfantasygaymers.com won't be cashing in on anyone else's work. However the rise of social networking has brought with it things like facebook groups, tumblr communities, online guilds, and, you guessed it, subreddits that all have 'gaymer' in their name. All of these being not for profit subsections of much larger commercial entities, the legal situation here becomes even murkier than it already was before.

The users of r/gaymers did not take this news lightly, noting uses of the term 'gaymer' prior to 2003 (which the trademark cites as its first usage), the wide-reaching effect this cease and desist would have on many other 'gaymer' subreddits, the seeming lack of concern regarding the name of the much anticipated Gaymercon, concerns over the validity of the trademark's authority in the first place, and the group's years of history that includes gift exchanges, meetups, and even a real life marriage in their own defense.

Read their full responses and the official statement from Gaymer.org on the matter, after the jump.

The news of a possible r/gaymers shutdown was first delivered to gay gaming redditors by moderator MisterGhost who posted the following emotional response:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is incredibly important, and quite frankly too important for a TLDR, so please read.

Someone wants to take gaymers from us. A cease and desist letter has been sent to Reddit. 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 fucked up that they seem to be ok using the same GAYMER name, even though we aren't making money. See what it is, is that this motherfucker from gaymer.org is sending reddit a cease and desist letter that we are using a name that he had trademarked in 2007 though whoever gave him that trademark is clearly not the brightest lightbulb in the box. It is a general term, not really sure how we fucking come into play.

Now here is this dude's trademark:

IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Computer services, namely, creating an online community for registered users to participate in competitions, showcase their skills, get feedback from their peers, form virtual communities, engage in social networking and improve their talent; Computer services, namely, hosting and maintaining an online website for others to discuss, receive and disseminate information concerning video games; Computer services, namely, hosting on-line web facilities for others for organizing and conducting online meetings, gatherings, and interactive discussions. FIRST USE: 20030526. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20030526

Now clearly this is fucking ridiculous in terms of his claim against Gaymers, and is demonstrated so.

  1. Reddit doesn't require registered users, you can be anonymous.
  2. We do not showcase skills or participate in competitions.
  3. It is engaging in social networking, but not to improve talent. The first part of the registration clearly shows that this is a site for gay gamers to focus on games. This subreddit is about the subculture of gaming within the context of being gay. The goals are different.
  4. Lastly, the trademark office does not allow you to register what is called Descriptive Trademarks. That means, for instance, you can't register Grocery Store for a grocery store.

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.

I am sad, sure, I will be honest, I'm not the happiest guy around. However, you dudes have become happy. People I know have improved their lives, RedditHolmes has gotten married to a gaymer for fucks sake, people have gotten jobs, even some of you have confided in me the want to commit suicide, unless I or someone else convinced you otherwise. Guys, Ladies, and everyone else, this is bullshit, IT IS NONSENSE, quite frankly FUCK THIS ENTIRE LEGAL ENDEAVOR. Reddit will not help us, neither will anyone else. The estimate I got for defending us legally would be above 50k dollars, and honestly since I was begging for food and money trying to pay for gaymers mumble, I don't think that we are gonna be able to get the money needed.

Here is what I need gaymers, I want you guys to subscribe to /r/internauts. The reason I have selected that particular name is because Mason Wyler suggested it, and it made me giggle SO DEAL. So anyway we may have to transplant not only to this subreddit, but also to offsite, I am open to names what we would call it, but understand that I am devoted to making a better community for you guys. I would have made a video speaking what I thought about, but I am far too prideful to show that, maybe someday I will be a bit different, anyway, join the new subreddit, fuck gaymer.org and have a great night.

edited to remove rambling

Fellow moderator MrPookers then followed with this:

TL;DR: shit's goin' down, y'all! r/gaymers might be banned this week over a cease and desist letter from someone who claims to have trademarked the word "gaymer." Please subscribe to /r/internauts where we will regroup.

You've probably read MisterGhost's announcement regarding gaymer.org's cease & desist letter served to Reddit. In this post, we the mods are sharing the information we have in as clear, concise, and unbiased language as we could muster.

Citizens, our situation is dire: The term "gaymer" was trademarked in 2007 and its holder, the owner of www.gaymer.org, has served Reddit a Cease & Desist letter. We are not, and have never been, affiliated with that website. Since we cannot change the name of r/gaymers, complying with the trademark would require that all of the gaymers subreddits be removed, and with them, all existing posts and comments.

We do have a viable case for our use of the term, if this matter were to go to court. Primarily, "gaymer" is a word which cannot be legitimately trademarked to begin with. Ideas cannot be trademarked, nor can widely used generic names for things. This is why certain corporations, while striving for market dominance and ubiquity of their products, stress that their brand names not be confused with the general product as a whole. For example: Band-Aid doesn't sell band-aids, it sells Band-Aid brand bandages. LEGO doesn't sell lego, it sells LEGO blocks. You don't wipe your nose with kleenexes, but with Kleenex brand tissues. The distinction is important because if all commercially sold bandages became widely known simply as band-aids, Band-Aid would lose the trademark to its own name. Anyone could call their bandages "band-aids."

Here's an example of the term "gaymer" being used in 1997 in a Usenet post as a descriptive term for a gay gamer. Here's another example in a blog post from 2002. The term "gaymers" is a purely descriptive term for "gay gamers", it's commonly used online in a context completely unrelated to the trademark, and purely descriptive terms cannot be trademarked. This trademark shouldn't have been granted in the first place; it was invalid then, and it is invalid now.

In our case, we could argue that "gaymer" is naturally a descriptive word for what a gay gaymer is, and that the trademark should be revoked. Riding this case to court, however, could require moneys on the order of $50,000. We don't have that money, and contesting the trademark is the only way to truly free the word "gaymer" for gay gamers everywhere.

When you're angry, the desire to demonize people is strong. Know, though, that everyone here is doing what they have to do. Reddit isn't invested in its subreddits enough to launch an expensive legal battle to protect a few of them. The trademark's holder has to ask Reddit to stop violating its trademark, because it's legally his responsibility to see that it is enforced. If you're like us, you're angry about this bullshit situation. We must not, however, let it devolve into a witchhunt. Petitioning Reddit on this, or blaming Reddit for this are not viable or recommended efforts. Our goal, as always, is to make the world a better place.

Confusingly, gaymer.org has expressed support for GaymerCon (imgur screenshot). We do not, however, know anything else about their interactions.

Where do we go from here? MisterGhost has set up /r/internauts as a sort of refugee camp/potential new home. We don't know how this week will to play out. For all we know the admins will destroy all the gaymer subreddits outright on Monday morning, or they might figure out a way to change the names for us. We don't even know what powers they have at their disposal or when they will choose to wield them.

Finally, beware: much personal information of the trademark's owner is dangerously exposed online and you must take care not to link to it anywhere on Reddit, especially as there may be a great deal of hostility towards him. Linking to it counts as doxxing, and may get offenders shadowbanned. Please do not abuse him. Remember: we want his good will. He may be able to tell Reddit to let us call ourselves gaymers.

If reddit complies with this cease and desist order, /r/gaymers and its entire history of posts and comments could be destroyed. In the nearly two years of its existence, we've had a gift exchange and meetups that have brought together hundreds of gaymers all over the world, spawned guilds and corporations† and brought two gaymers together in an actual, real-life marriage. We have built a very real community here. They can take the name gaymers from our subreddit, we can't fight that battle legally -- but we have to keep our history.

With Love, the /r/gaymers mod team

Not surprisingly there has been quite the outcry from users as well. Some redditors have begun brainstorming possibilities to combat their newfound legal troubles, while others have begun compiling evidence to help support their case. Many users who subscribe to both r/gaymers and Gaymer.org have taken to the latter's forums and chats to voice their support for r/gaymers. A quick gander at Gaymer.org's Gaymer Shoutbox shows many of its users support r/gaymers, with some even renouncing their support of Gaymer.org; the most common argument being that, legalities aside, this move appears to be dividing the gay video gaming community even further. Just like when the trademark was first filed.

As of this writing, there is no official word from anyone at Gaymer.org on the issue.

Update: Via a chat room conversation on Gaymer.org Chris Vizzini chimed in on the issue with the following (under the username Gaymer):

I did send the reddit legal team a cease and desist letter. I emailed them asking them to change the name to something else but they ignored me so as a trademark holder I didn't have much choice.

...

If you don't defend your trademark, you can lose it. Tim and I spent nearly the last ten years and countless thousands on this site. I love it. And I'm not going to risk losing it. This is not a money maker for me, believe me. But the Gaymer name is something I worked hard on, way before reddit was even an idea.

Mr. Vizzini then took to Reddit himself, under username GaymerOrg, with the following response:

Hello fellow gay gamers. I wanted to address the cease and desist letter that was sent to reddit.

First and foremost, I never asked for the sub-reddit gaymer to be removed. I emailed reddit twice asking that they simply rename the community to something else. They did not respond.

As a trademark and word mark holder, it's my responsibility to defend the marks, otherwise I could lose them.

I started Gaymer.org in 2003 and began to build Gaymer as a brand. Thats why I trademarked and word marked the name. At that time, there was only one other site around dedicated to gay gamers. I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on Gaymer.org. I have done so gladly as it's brought happiness to many people.

I have received many nasty emails and comments on my site, not to mention what's been said on the reddit site.

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.

It's only when "gaymer" is used in the site name that causes confusion to the public. That is what word marking is all about.

I have absolutely no ill will towards the reddit community. I have been in contact with a very nice woman at reddit who is working with me on this.

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.

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.

For this to be resolved, its going to take respectful communication between the moderators at reddit, the reddit people themselves and myself.

I hope the barrage of insults directed at me and my site is not an indicator of how this communication to resolve will take place.

Looking forward to a peaceful resolution to this matter.

Chris Vizzini Gaymer.org

No matter where anyone stands on this issue, I think we can all agree that a peaceful resolution would be best for the entire gay gaming community.

Sound off in the comments: Where do you stand on not only the issue of r/gaymers' cease and desist, but on the 'gaymer' trademark controversy as a whole?

27 Comments

wohdin said:

The fact that this word is "trademarked" is alone nauseating. Why, even? I know I've been using the term WAY before 2007.

Boreas said:

I personally don't see how the term "gaymer" can be trademarked. As it stands, the term is becoming more and more ubiquitous across the internet; at its core, the term is simply a portmanteau of "gay gamer" and can be derived by anyone with the literacy of a second grader. It seems that the term has entered into the common vernacular, and thus warrants a reappraisal of the legitimacy of the trademark.

That being said, I am a Redditor and a member of /r/gaymers. I've made many dear friends over the many months I've been active in the community, and it seems ridiculous that this is even an issue. I understand that Mr. Vizzini is simply reaffirming his ownership of the trademark by issuing the cease and desist, but is it really worth it at this point? Why not relinquish the trademark and be free of all this drama?

On a side note, I'm glad that GayGamer took an interest in this. It seems to be an issue to the greater gaymer community that needs careful consideration and reassessment, and I'd rather not see it be swept under the rug.

Doug said:

"But the Gaymer name is something I worked hard on..."

If so many other people came up with it independently, it's not so genius.

rawr said:

Why cant both communities coexist? He said himself he doesn't make money off his site. I really don't see how r/gaymers threatens his site in the slightest way. Petty thing to do, imo.

Heedless Horseman said:

If the motivation behind this move was simply to keep the trademark, then a solution could be to license the word to r/gaymers.

Mittens said:

AS A SOFTWARE ATTORNEY (beats chest) ... who knows very little about trademark but did run it by his trademark counsel in the office next door (wah-wah), I would ignore that Cease & Desist, personally, because any suspect trademark like this would not survive the rigors of an actual trial dispute. The court would likely say "Gaymer.org" has no susceptibility to damaging confusion because nobody thought they coined the term in the first place. It was appropriated and his trademark's registration can be invalidated if he tries to exercise it against others.

FUN-FACT: go look it up! "Gaymer" was first registered to Mr. Gaymer's limited liability cider company in New England? We owe him so much!

Heedless Horseman said:

Several things occurred to me after I submitted my last comment.

First, I thought there had to be something being sold for there to be trademark infringement. As far as I can tell the Reddit site isn't selling anything related to the trademark.

Second, does Gaymer.org actually have enough money to fight a legal battle? It seems like they just have ads and a CafePress site.

Third, is this really a smart move for Gaymer.org? An outcome that I can foresee is that people will leave the site en masse.

Fourth, I really think that the trademark should have been for "Gaymer.org." I doubt that anyone would have a problem with that. Plus, many people automatically think sites are .com's and "gaymer.com" just leads to a blank page. So, it would lead people directly to the site.

Finally, I agree with the people who think that the trademark isn't valid.

Prelimar said:

that's ridiculous. can't some agreement be reached so both can be happy? when you involve lawyers, only the lawyers win.

Kerrie said:

Just an outsiders perspective, there was a similar issue in my city of Baltimore last year. The owner of Cafe Hon had trademarked the word "Hon", which as a business owner made sense because she was selling things that advertised her cafe and shop. However, for many Baltimore natives, the word "hon" as an affectionate term pre-dated this woman's existence, much less her business. They liked the name of her store, they liked her merchandise, but when they found out other baltimore locals couldn't sell anything with the endearing term on it, THEN they got really upset. Who was this PA native to trademark their word? they asked. The woman defended her trademark so strongly it did more harm than good to her business and her reputation in the community. It took Gordon Ramsey talking some sense in her before she realized her fight was not worth the damage and rifts it was causing in the community. I sense a similar situation here. Yes, trademarks are important in many situations, but maybe Vizzini could learn a thing or to from Cafe Hon's owner Denise Whiting's failures.

AJ said:

Do kickstarter's rules allow crowd funding for legal battles?

If so someone should totally start one... this needs to be fought. Having 'gaymer' trademarked is ridiculous. The logo sure... but not the word as a whole.

Michael Sawyer said:

I have proof I used gaymer with a group of friends in the 90's as the title of our table top game sessions. This is stupid and absurd.

That said, as a member of both gaymer.org and r/gaymers, I will cease useing gaymer.org's website. On all my online profiles, from facebook to reddit, I will post links to articles condemning gaymer.org, and encourage no one to use it.

I encourage everyone else to do the same. This needs to be public, and that is the only way to damage gaymer.org to the extent that he has publicly damaged the gaymer community.

Also, he would never have been able to trademark that word in Texas. What the hell state does he live in that has zero standards for trademarks?

Lydecker said:

I am a member of gaymer.org, and joined the site about 5 1/2 years ago when I was just coming out. I met some great friends through there, some of which were my first circle of gay friends, I'm still friends with today, and went to a couple's wedding a few months ago.

I'm not a Redditor and not a member of reddit/gaymers.

I very much enjoy gaymer.org, but I am appalled at Chris for thinking of using a trademark to abuse other communities and attempt for exclusive use of this term. This is ridiculous. I am proud of being part of the gaymer.org community, and the gay community at large, but not at all proud of these actions.

raindog469 said:

Never go against a Sicilian when trademarks are on the line! Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha--

Seriously, what an incredible douchebag move, but we live in a society that has made douchebag moves acceptable. Time for some trademark invalidation.

fillerbunny9 said:

well, gaymer.org is either being hammered with more traffic than they ever expected, or the site just doesn't work.

no small loss that I have never heard of them I guess. I wonder how long before he decides to chase down similar portmanteaus such as "gaymism" or when they force gaymercon to change their name or some other such nonsense. I didn't really agree with the trademarking of the term in 2007, and I definitely do not now.

koen said:

Wow, I am not sure how to feel about the situation. It's very weird and almost un-graspable to me that even in the gaymer community we are still arguing with each other over perceived titles of importance.I say that the term gaymer isn't something that can be owned like Sony or Toshiba because it belongs to the people that identify to it. I am a gaymer yes, but that doesn't mean I go to Gaymer.org except for the odd finger slip and I enter the autospeller. I don't read spanish...

Lucas said:

Wow, what a jerk. Way to swoop in and crush a community. And why? I'm not sure I understand what this is supposed to gain for the TM owner. \
(And to restate the obvious: how on earth did the word "gaymer" get trademarked in the first place?!)

I am with the others in thinking that this makes about as
much sense as trademarking the term queer or bear or
leatherdaddy....i think you can tell where my head is going with this.

point being, this is ridiculiscious®.

Matt Connors said:

Hey Guys,

There's a followup thread posted by Chris on reddit here:
http://www.reddit.com/r/gaymers/comments/znqsd/regarding_reddit_cease_and_desist_from_gaymerorg/

I am also talking with him via email to try and hash things out; people seem to just be shouting and calling each other names otherwise so hopefully this will be productive.

Kevin said:

Who would start a webpage without checking to see if the name they want to use is trademarked? Sounds like an idiot, whether it's for profit or not. Looks like the owner of gaymer.org has been more than generous for too long with these reddit people; they should have done their homework and now are crying over a lack of intelligence.
Maybe I should start a not-for-profit webpage called McDonalds and see if I get a call from lawyers!

Kevin,

We didn't start a webpage we started a section on reddit for Gaymers to come and hang out.

Gaymer is a term that many of us use to describe ourselves, its closely linked to our identity.

We developed that identity completely independent of this guy's site. Prior to this incident I had no opinion of this guy whatsoever
but it is ridiculous of him to try and control this word that means more to many people than he understands.

He is an idiot for starting this fight, there was more than enough room for both of us.

Ann said:

The internet and copyright... It must be soo good to be young.

Dudeguy said:

In my opinion just change the reddit tag to /r/gaymerz it might be stupid to have to put a z instead of an s, but it's as stupid as trademarking gaymers, considering the only thing the owner is doing, is attacking the very people he is trying to attract.

MeanOnSunday said:

If the issue is only protection of the trademark, as they claim, then all they have to do is offer to license the name for $1. I have my doubts though; I think they actually want to enforce the trademark and remove a competitor.

plastickman said:

And his website is down...serves him right for trademarking something he didn't come up with. Does he think he's Thomas Edison?

Nitsudrevart said:

"please don't use my word gaymer" says the asshole with the fucking Famicom/Nintendo controller in his logo. What an ass........

seraphimpunk said:

be sure to trademark gaymerz first, so he doesn't just squat all over that too.

E said:

I think its rather pathetic and confused being in london we have a cider called gaymers? is this guy going to take on them? If anyone should be kicking up a stink you would think it would be the cider guys....

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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