Sony's attempt to trademark "Let's Play," a term that for years has been commonly used to describe videos of people playing through and reacting to video games, has been shot down.
Earlier this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office website showed that Sony applied to trademark "Let's Play" to describe "Electronic transmission and streaming of video games via global and local computer networks; streaming of audio, visual, and audiovisual material via global and local computer networks."
Gaming is a hugely popular category for video content on the internet. It's why Amazon acquired the video game streaming platform Twitch for $1 billion, and why the most famous creator of "Let's Play" videos Pewdiepie has the most popular channel on YouTube with 41 million subscribers. Basically, if Sony managed to register this "Let's Play" trademark, the company would be in a good position to sue any YouTuber or Twitch streamer who used the term to promote their videos, even though the term has been commonly used in the gaming community for roughly a decade.
The USPTO said it would likely reject Sony's application in its initial form, but gave Sony six months to address its concerns, namely that Sony's application is too similar to an existing trademark called "LP Let'z Play."
Stephen McArthur, an attorney who spends his time counseling clients on trademark and copyright issues in the video game industry, told Motherboard that this would have been an easy concern for Sony to address because the "LP Let'z Play" trademark was abandoned.
Fearing that Sony would be able to register the "Let's Play" trademark, McArthur filled a Letter of Protest, an obscure procedure that allows third parties to submit evidence for the USPTO to consider before a trademark is published.
The letter provided the USPTO with blog posts, the "Let's Play" subreddit, and other evidence demonstrating "Let's Play" was used long before Sony's application to describe video game streaming in general, not Sony's video game streaming service in particular.
On Wednesday, a post on The McArthur Law Firm website announced that the Letter of Protest worked. "The USPTO has finally agreed that 'Let's Play' is a common term in the industry and it issued a strong rebuke of Sony's attempt to monopolize the term," the post said.
An excerpt from the USPTO's argument posted to The McArthur Law Firm website shows that it refused Sony's application to trademark "Let's Play" because "the applied-for mark merely describes a feature of applicant's services."
According to The McArthur Law Firm the USPTO's evidence consisted entirely of the first two sources included in its Letter of Protest: the Wikipedia page for "Let's Play" and the /r/letsplay subreddit.
With it's current application refused, Sony has six months to respond with its own evidence and argument in support of registration, though it's not likely to succeed.
"Given the strength of this evidence, we are confident that Sony will not be able to overcome this rejection," The McArthur Law Firm said. "The term "Let's Play" is now forever in the public domain."