Sony Tried To Trademark ‘Let’s Play’, Gets Smacked Down

Sony Tried To Trademark ‘Let’s Play’, Gets Smacked Down

Last year, Sony quietly tried to trademark the term “Let’s Play”, which they want to use for marketing, but which everyone else associates with videos of people playing games on the internet. Thankfully, the USPTO is having none of it. A law firm involved in disputing Sony’s application filed a letter of protest a couple of weeks back, citing evidence of how ubiquitous the term is online and arguing “the term ‘Let’s Play’ is generic and…Sony should not have exclusive rights over it”.

Today, the firm say the USPTO agrees, and Sony’s application has been refused.

You might have seen something like this reported a few weeks back, but the firm — McArthur — say that news was premature.

“The previous ‘rejection,’ widely misreported a few weeks ago, was in reality just a minor nuisance to Sony”, they say. “This rejection is far more lethal to Sony’s trademark application.”

Get outta here, Sony.


  • Just a reminder to anyone who thought that “Let’s Play” was just a marketing phrase and had no pertinence to the current trend of “Let’s Play” video content such as Achievement Hunter etc. on YouTube, please actually read the application.

    They were specifically trying to trademark the term Let’s Play in conjunction with the streaming of game content. What that planned to do with the trademark once they had it is another story, since the copious amounts of existing “Let’s Play”ers online would be protected for their previous use of the term, which is probably part of the reason the application was thrown out. The term is utterly generic to the point that any trademark infringement claims would be practically unenforceable.

  • This is the sort of stuff where you think that some business lawyers lie to their clients about their chances. I mean, the older versions of lets plays (the ones on the SA forums that were slightly more interactive where many of them allowed readers to vote on in-game decisions) have been archived online going back to 2007. Surely any decent lawyer would point to this as a clear case of being a generic term.

    • I never felt like any lawyer had to stand by some notion of ethical stewardship with their clients.

      Sometimes i wonder if they invented the word frivolous.

    • You’d be surprised how adamant clients are about dumb things. The best thing you can do is do a good job inside the constraints they set, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself without work. It sucks, but that’s pretty much all client-serving industries in a nutshell.

    • I was wondering about the term, or whether it made sense once, before being applied to “I play, you watch” videos.

  • So, instead of Sony making money off it, Youtube/Google will just continue to make money off it?

    Depriving those who actually developed the games and associated works within them of income they _possibly might_ have received had Sony achieved this trademark, who knows.

    It’s an interesting strategy Sony tried to undertake, I’m not sure it actually intended to be successful here though.

    • Last I heard, YouTube had an option to allow copyright holders on games to take a cut of income from “Let’s Play” videos. There was a big fuss at one point about Nintendo basically insisting on a 100% share.

      However, it’s an option that very few companies actually took up, possibly in response to the Nintendo fracas.

      As for Sony’s application, its most likely use would be in videos uploaded from PS4 systems using the “share” button. I can’t really see them doing a lot of revenue sharing there. I would expect something more along the lines of NIntendo’s early actions, but made much easier to track because the PS4 system could notify Sony of any uploads automatically.

      I know we’ve all had warmfuzzies about Sony this generation, but let’s not forget the delays in notifying their customers about penetration of PSN a few years ago, and the Sony BMG rootkit scandal before that.

      • Despite the backlash and bad publicity, the Nintendo Creator Program was at many levels, a success.

        While many were covering the reactions from popular Youtubers and deciding the program was a failure, Nintendo was swamped with hundreds of thousands of applications within a few days.
        While I respect the choice of many to avoid the program, not many realised that the demand was still there and others were more than willing to fill the gap.

        • It’s a victory for corporate manipulation, though. People applied because they just wanted to do their thing. But these are arguably hugely transformative works which are protected under US copyright laws without having to pay a single damn cent to the original works.

          Thing is, YouTube and Nintendo partnered together to make sure that no-one ever gets a chance to argue that in a court. YouTube doesn’t have to let you host ad-revenue videos if they don’t want to, and in this case they decided they don’t want to, and other video streaming sites (hah) can deal with the issue of establishing the precedent for Let’s Plays to be considered transformative, in court.

          Pretty disappointing behaviour, frankly.

  • I think Sony has been using alot of terms relating directly to “play”. I remember the trailer saying something about “the best place to play” as the punchline. They probably trying to use it without consequences and without confusion of accidentally promoting the famous let’s play videos.

  • How are they even allowed to file a trademark for something they didn’t even come up with? Shuhei, Boyes and the rest of the gang should kill themselves for this.

    • They’re not allowed to. They tried to and failed. If I had to guess this was just the usual paranoid lawyer crap where it’s better to waste time, money and tie up the legal system than potentially face a one in a billion shot of someone claiming the term and suing them for all the times they’ve used it in their marketing.

      • So I read your first line in reference to shithead’s last line and it registered in my head as Shuhei, Boyes etc aren’t allowed to kill themselves, that they tried and failed already.

    • They’re allowed to file an application for whatever they like. Their lawyers should give them advice on the likelihood of it being successful… 🙂

      • The lawyers are more interested in the likelihood of themselves getting paid by the hour, which is much greater than the likelihood of actually succeeding 😛

          • I’m sure they did. It’s just a matter of there always being the possibility of it getting it through, which involves an opposition period before actual registration. Even though it would likely never hold up as a right in court. The best a lawyer could have said here was “its unlikely but still a possibility” and a tm application is cheap for someone like Sony.

            It’s only an issue now because they are getting bad PR.

        • (Agree in general about justifying one’s position, although I’d say it’s fairly likely that the lawyers are on retainer and get paid whether they waste their time on frivolous bullshit or not. Seems more likely to me that one of the guys in Marketing put their foot down and insisted it was core to their upcoming campaign, and legal just shrugged and said, “Whatever, it’s not like I’m going to the beach or anything.”)

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