Popular YouTubers Try To Trademark ‘React’

Popular YouTubers Try To Trademark ‘React’

The Fine Brothers have built successful careers showing how folks, old and young, react to everything from split-screen gaming to the Oculus Rift to rotary telephones and 1990s internet. And now it’s the Fine Brothers that people are reacting to, and their decision to try to trademark “React”.

Last week, Variety reported the Fine Brothers, who have one of the biggest channels on YouTube, planned to monetise and licence its React shows, providing tools and support for others to make react videos for their channel. To do that, the brothers also felt they needed to file for trademark protection for “React” with the US Patent & Trademark Office last July. Here is the filing for their filing to trademark “React”.

You know, the actual word. To be clear, the Fine Brothers only want to trademark it under “entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people”. Only!

And here is their announcement:

If the 233,000 dislikes are anything to go by, this video doesn’t appear to have gone over well. The Fine Brothers created another video because “the negative response has been so overwhelming”.

The Fine Brothers explain that they were trying to trademark their React format and not the entire react genre. I’m guessing as long as those in that genre don’t use the actual word “react”?

Kotaku reached out to the Fine Brothers for further clarification, but did not hear back before publication.

Attorney Ryan Morrison, whom Mark Serrels at Kotaku Australia has previously featured, points out that the Fine Brothers has gotten trademarks for phrases like “celebrities react”, “adults react” and “parents react”.

“When a trademark examiner approves a trademark, like they did here, they put it forward for publication,” Morrison added. “On the date of publication, the public has 30 days to file an opposition. Had the Fine Bros kept quiet for another month, they almost certainly would have gotten this trademark, as no one seemed to notice it. Instead, they announced their ridiculous licensing program and turned all eyes on them. How they were not advised to remain silent a bit longer? No idea. But I can tell you that it was a huge mistake, and one that they will regret.”

How has the internet been reacting to all this? The Fine Brothers haven’t made a video, but we do have some comments:

[via YouTube]

[via dinosawrsareawesome [Reddit]]

[via RealityIsMyReligion [Reddit]]

[via NeoGAF]

[via NeoGAF]

Meanwhile, shades of Sony trying and then failing to trademark “Let’s Play” hover in the background.

Top GIF via Fine Brothers Entertainment


  • God I hate these idiots who want to trademark generic terms. You didn’t invent interviewing various groups of people so why the hell do you deserve a trademark for it?!

    • Trademark” not “Patent

      While, the TRADEMARK is a bit dubious, “biggest youtubers evar!!!” …except no one I know has heard of them XD, but hey, if they want to make that their TRADEMARK, that’s fine.

      Mind you TRADEMARKS are very specific, e.g. Font, Colouring, Lettering, Spacing, etc. Are all part of what make something a TRADEMARK. Just saying you react to something, or calling your own business React, doesn’t necessarily make you in breach of TRADEMARK agreements.

      • Fine Brothers are the 10th largest channel on Youtube, if you don’t include the Vevo channels for different bands. They’re not exactly small fry.

          • Kotaku and Gizmodo have given them a fair bit of coverage in the past, I suppose it depends how often you read articles here but it would have been hard to miss mention of them a year or so ago when the Kids React and Elders React videos were trending.

            Still, Youtube is pretty big. I’ve heard of most of the big channels but I don’t watch any of them, so I can understand how they might slip under individual viewers’ radar.

          • Ah. Those videos. I’ve seen some of them, but never paid much attention to the guys who made them.

      • Of course that doesn’t stop their network Fullscreen aggressively pursuing and taking down videos that are in any way similar to the React format despite not infringing on their marks or brand in the slightest, and encouraging their fans to attack Ellen DeGeneres’ show because she had the audacity to ask some kids if they know what a typewriter is.

      • Fair enough, a trademark and patent mean much the same to me!

        If you look at their application it states

        The mark consists of standard characters without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.

        so by my understanding anyone who does

        Entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people

        would be unable to use the word “react” in the title/description of their video.

        So for me, it’s way too general and should not be allowed. It’s just as stupid as when Paris Hilton wanted to trademark “That’s hot”.

        • Your assessment at the end is correct, to my understanding. React would be a protected mark and couldn’t be used by competitors in the same category. I agree that it’s too broad, I just don’t think it was malicious.

          • I don’t think it was malicious either, they look genuinely upset by everyone’s responses in the second video above!

      • Whilst this is true it still allows them quite a bit of leeway when providing take down notices for video they believe share their look and feel when realistically their look and feel is as generic as any beginning film student(no offense). So whilst at its core, Trademarking isn’t evil, in the wrong hands it can very easily be abused to high hell.

    • It’s not a patent, it’s a trademark. All a trademark protects is the mark itself (eg. a name or symbol), it doesn’t stop people making the same thing under a different name. Sprite is trademarked as a soft drink name, for example, but it doesn’t mean people can’t call things Sprite outside of soft drinks, and it doesn’t mean you can’t make the same thing as Sprite under a different name (there’s a different law that protects the recipe but it’s not trademark).

      • This is the internet. No one ever lets facts get in the way of good old fashioned outrage…

      • Quick note, nothing protects recipes (or procedures).

        I only skimmed the article but it sounds like they just wanted to trademark the naming format “X React” since a lot of their shows are done in that style with that format.

        A trademark doesn’t prevent someone from making a show of the exact same format, it just stops people from naming it something deceptively similar.

        Seems a legit use on their part, unfortunately their titling is a little generic which caused problems with people understanding the breadth.

        • The recipe thing was a tangential comment but what I was referring to was that Sprite’s recipe is protected under intellectual property law as a trade secret. It protects the original recipe from disclosure, but doesn’t protect against a competing company independently replicating the recipe.

          As for the trademark application, I see no problem with it at all. The fuss right now seems to be caused by people who have no idea what a trademark is and what it protects.

          • The only thing in a recipe that can be potentially copywritten is the actual document written down. So it’s illegal to steal that from their computers and send it to someone.

            But if you saw it, wrote it down yourself then there’s nothing they can do.

            Which is why they tend to be protective of their recipes and would likely make anyone who has a chance of seeing it sign an NDA.

          • I never mentioned copyright, I said it had (some) protection as intellectual property. I specifically mentioned disclosure in the post you just replied to as protected, because nobody has any access to Sprite’s recipe without being bound by a non-disclosure agreement at the very least, and most likely other confidentiality clauses like non-competition.

          • All good! IP spans a few different protection groups including copyright, patents, trademarks and a few others. It’s sufficiently vague that IP lawyers are pretty much secure in their jobs for life 😉

          • http://superfame.com/post/fine-brothers-copyright-react-trademark/

            Don’t know the validity of that site but what got my attention is

            The Fine Bros confirmed that their legal team WILL be sending takedown letters, despite earlier claims that they weren’t going to bother. “Our legal team has to protect trademarks and I.P. to keep them valid!” they wrote on Reddit.

            IE greed – they want a monopoly and don’t want to compete.

          • Their response video above does a pretty good job of clarifying their intent. They don’t want a monopoly, the licensing is specifically for their style of react video. They don’t claim to own the genre or format, nor would they want to even try, anyone with half a brain knows that’s a pointless exercise and they’re not stupid. They also want to protect the name of the channel (“React”) because if someone comes along later and trademarks it, they’d be forced to change it. Prior use isn’t as important in trademark use as it is in copyright or patent use and it is possible to be locked out of a name you’ve used for years if someone later trademarks it.

            Their comment on legal responses is to protect the brand name. “Kids React” is the name of their series and a trademark. You can make the exact same format if you want, you just can’t call it “Kids React”, in the same way you can make your own version of Coca Cola, you just can’t call it “Coca Cola”.

          • You can make the exact same format if you want, you just can’t call it “Kids React”, in the same way you can make your own version of Coca Cola, you just can’t call it “Coca Cola”.

            My understanding is that its not “Kids react” its “XXX react” They’re trademark application is for REACT. Its like coca cola trademarking cola. I’d have absolutely no issue if it was specific but its just far to broad.

            See http://superfame.com/post/fine-brothers-copyright-react-trademark/react-trademark/

            EDIT: Correct me if im mistaken

            EDIT 2: seems like a moot point now if this is true https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/43sdch/not_a_video_but_the_finebros_have_cancelled_all/

      • In which case it makes the Fine Bros. attempt to monopolise the term and “format” of “react” videos that much more egregious. It would be like Coca Cola Amatil using their existing brand of Sprite to trademark the words “Lemon” and “Lime” then pursuing for infringement not only any other drink that advertised itself as being lemon-flavoured, lime-flavoured or lemonade, but also extending that to any carbonated beverages that have any kind of citrus as an ingredient.

        Whatever they’re claiming in their PR/damage control video, they will abuse their “trademark” and continue their campaign of issuing unwarranted DMCA takedowns against any video that asks a person or panel of persons for their opinion of something they are being shown. They’ve done it before, they are continuing to do it, they will do it again.

        • Trademark has no bearing on the format, it only protects marks. Even if Coca Cola trademarked ‘Lemon’ (which they couldn’t for dozens of reasons) it wouldn’t stop other companies using lemon in their drinks, it would only apply to the word ‘lemon’ itself.

          Can you link to anything showing Fine Brothers filing DMCA against competing shows with the same format? To the best of my knowledge the only action they’ve taken has been against shows named in a way that is similar to/the same as their own React shows, and a few cases where direct footage from Fine Brothers’ shows was used in other videos (under the claim of fair use). I’m curious to read more if that’s not the case.

          • Exactly, because we live in the real world.

            Fine Bros. are applying for a trademark for their existing brands and the new “licensing” platform, React World. And if that’s all they were doing, no one would really care, despite the fact they’re proposing to take a pretty ludicrous cut of the revenue just to let potentially tens of thousands of fans slap their branding on whatever unmoderated garbage they want.

            But in conjunction with the fact that they, or at least their network Fullscreen, think they own the concept of a reaction video, is a great concern.

          • Apologies, I edited my post after you responded. I added that the only other DMCA claim I’ve seen was to take down videos that used direct footage from Fine Brothers videos under the claim of fair use.

          • In response to your edit, there’s actually some action being taken to oppose the trademark which you can read about here.


            Ryan Morrison, who posts on reddit under the handle videogameattorney, has been active in various React Related threads blowing up on /r/videos the last couple of days. There have been multiple videos posted from YouTubers, usually with only a handful of subs/views that have had DMCA takedowns issued by Fullscreen. Since these videos have been taken down, I can’t personally verify whether they infringed on branding but it’s a pretty safe bet that they did not, at least, not all of them.

            Back in 2012 there was another channel that made a series called “Seniors React” which is what The Fine Bros. were originally going to call their Elders React series before they discovered Seniors React already existed. Follwing the launch of Elders React in 2013, the Seniors React videos were then all hit with takedowns by the Fine Bros. for infringing on the Elders React format, and the channel shut down.

          • I have no horse in this race. I don’t make reaction videos and I don’t typically watch them either. I think ‘React’ as a trademark is probably too broad but wasn’t a malicious application. I also don’t share Morrison’s confidence that the more specific trademarks (Elders React and Kids React, as well as the more recent applications) will be so easily overturned, but I don’t know what supporting evidence he has.

            In short, I don’t see a problem with the application being made, nor do I see a problem with it being overturned.

            I can’t comment on Fullscreen without knowing more and I can’t take sides or accept safe bets on whether their actions were justifiable without evidence, but it’s probably worth noting that Fullscreen aren’t the Fine Brothers, and from some quick searching it seems Fullscreen has their own reputation for the worse, independent of Fine Brothers. I don’t think it’s fair to misattribute frustrations with the network onto one of the channels they work with.

          • I don’t scare Ryan’s confidence that the existing trademarks will be overturned either, but I do think the current attempt to trademark React World, which is specifically pitched as a brand to encompass all other React videos is something that should be opposed. And some of those other trademarks are already, by their exact wording, generic. “Try Not to Smile or Laugh” for instance? Search that exact phrase on youtube if you feel like seeing a million compilation videos make by some 12 year old with windows movie maker, cobbled together from other people’s videos and animated gifs of babies falling over and animals farting.

          • I hadn’t looked at any other trademarks they’ve applied for other than React related ones. On the Smile/Laugh one, prior use is a factor in trademark applications but it’s not quite as clear-cut as in patent applications, and reputation seems to factor. Personally I think Fine Brothers could have avoided any issues with that one by naming their series something a bit more unique (and that goes for some of their other series too), and I don’t think it would stand up to a challenge.

            Some of their other applications seem fine to me though. People v Technology or Kids v Food seem fairly distinct.

        • You don’t really get trademarks… You know that “schhhh” sound of a bottle opening in scwheppes ads? That is a trademark.

          It doesn’t mean you can’t use similar sounds in your marketing, you just can’t use that one.

          Let’s try something different… Are you familiar with Crust? The pizza place? They would have a trademark for the name Crust in relation to pizza stores (probably just in Aus too) which means no one can open a pizza store called Crust or something deceptively similar.

          That’s all this was, it’s just saying for a web series of that format they don’t want their competitors stealing that naming format and confusing their customers. It wouldn’t prevent anyone else making a show on the same vein, like a pizza shop, just mean they’d need a new name.

          It might be a bit broad but they were justified in applying.

          • We’re not in disagreement about what trademarks are, and they’re certainly entitled to file trademarks. However they’re filing trademarks for generic terms, and already have a history of aggressively pursuing and pushing out videos they feel infringe on their format, despite publically conceding that you can’t own a format.

          • Crust would have a tm for their specific font and logo (the heart with vines) but NOT on the word “crust”.

          • I guarantee you that you won’t be able to start a pizza restaurant called Crust using a different font.

            You could make video called Kid’s Respond and describe it as a react video and this trademark would do nothing.

            I’ll give another example, you make a morning talk show and try name it Sunrise. Nothing stops you making a show in that format, but that name is for your competitors product and may mislead consumers.

            Unless someone can prove that it was already a generic term like Let’s Plays then I don’t see the issue.

          • This is the equivalent of Crust Pizza being able to stop Pizza Hut from using the word “Crust” on their menus or advertising. (Bye Bye pie-stuffed-crust!)

            Crust Pizza did not invent pizza crust just as these idiots didn’t invent reaction videos.

          • No it’s not…. No part of this says you can’t use the word react in advertising or descriptions. It’s all about the name of their video series and that’s all.

            A trademark is just how you identify a product you make, in this case it’s a name for a we series. The protection is meant just to stop competitors using your name and brand to sell their product.

            @mccawsome brings up a good example, there was a local chain in NSW I believe that had a trademark for Burger King so when it moved here it had to change its name, it was still able to use all the same advertising though.

            Trademarks can also be limited in scope geographically, in this case the smaller company only held it in a couple of Australian States so the U.S. Company was able to buy the trademark elsewhere.

          • No it’s not…. No part of this says you can’t use the word react in advertising or descriptions. It’s all about the name of their video series and that’s all.

            Please read the filing posted by the Fine Brothers from the link above –


            it states

            The mark consists of standard characters without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.

            so by my understanding anyone who does

            Entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going series of programs and webisodes via the Internet in the field of observing and interviewing various groups of people

            would be unable to use the word “react” in the title/description of their video.

          • In the title, I’m not a lawyer so I can only make a common language judgement but that seems to be an attempt to allow them to trademark videos of the “X React” format, though it’s wording may be a bit too broad and potentially should be shot down on that the intention still seems legitimate.

            Again it’s not a patent or a copyright, even if it’s granted they don’t have control over any use of the word react. You just couldn’t put up a video with that as the title.

            The part where it doesn’t claim a particular font is actually something of a limit rather than a broadening though, it just says that it doesn’t have a particular protected style that could potentially be copied without using the word. Such as if you opened a pizza store called Pizza but with the same styling as Crust’s logo.

          • The words trademarked in that case are “Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar”, but it’s within the range of protection that if a competing business opened named “Crust Pizzas” or anything similar involving the word “Crust”, there’s a good chance it would be denied on the basis of similarity and likelihood of confusion.

  • ah React videos, the video proof that our apparently civilised world is falling apart through its own stupidity. Of all the lame youtube trends it reigns as King. And their number of subs is proof of just how much of the world is doomed.

  • Is their next video “YouTube Reacts to FineBros trying to trademark React”. All they’d need to do is put up a running line of the comments and show their sub count ticking down.

    The general public doesn’t like anything that seems like big people claiming something that isn’t theirs. Putting a trademark on the “React” format isn’t really a big deal, doesn’t stop others from making react videos just can’t use an identical format to them etc.

    • It’s not even the format, trademark can’t cover something like that. It’s just the name, since they have Kids React, Elders React, Teens React series. Trademarking ‘React’ would basically only apply to naming entertainment series along the same lines. You could do a show with an identical format and call it ‘Kids Respond’ and you’d be fine, as far as the trademark goes.

      • Whilst this is true it still allows them quite a bit of leeway when providing take down notices for video they believe share their look and feel when realistically their look and feel is as generic as any beginning film student(no offense). So whilst at its core, Trademarking isn’t evil, in the wrong hands it can very easily be abused to high hell especially with how Google handles copyright claims on Youtube.

        • I agree for the most part, though if they did try to use the trademark to take down videos with a similar format/look/feel, they’d have to be careful to never actually say that’s the reason because trademark doesn’t extend that far.

          Are Fine Brothers the wrong hands? I don’t believe so. Are Fullscreen? Probably. I’ve mentioned above but I think ‘React’ on its own is too broad. I have no problem with Kids React and Elders React and such, though.

          • They have apparently been found to indirectly encourage people to attack other content creators who happen to make similar comments. Regarding the rumour about the Ellen D attack, that was a fan page but when people asked them VIA Twitter their thoughts they apparently said that she had it coming.

          • Personally no, This is just from the multitude of tweets from people who either were fans and now not or people who always disliked their content discussing(yelling?) it on the reddit forums. There is that screen shot (http://www.cringechannel.com/2016/01/31/picture-the-fine-bros-vs-ellen/) from the official fan page but that doesn’t amount to much except showing their fans a rabid wolves.

            Looks like they have rescinded all their trademarks now though.

          • I’ve read a lot of the discussion about it on Reddit and a bunch of other sites, but nobody seems to have actual evidence, they’re just recycling hearsay. I can’t really give that any weight without something more concrete, unfortunately. To be honest, most of what people are repeating I’ve found to be either unsupported or false, like misattributing the fan page post as being from the Fine Brothers directly.

            It’s really easy to whip the internet pitchfork mob into a frenzy on the basis of a few well-timed fabrications or deliberate misinterpretations. I’ve looked at what Fine Brothers did here, and did as much research as I could on their past activities. The worst I can find actual evidence for is their frustration that it appeared another show was cashing in on the high of a genre they made efforts to revive, and a degree of wilful forgetfulness that the genre wasn’t created by them in the first place. But a bit of undeserved hubris is a lot less dramatic than the rumours and accusations going around right now entail.

            This seems like a judgement call kind of thing and I’m certainly not going to fault you for coming to a different conclusion, but I just can’t in good conscience accept the current rumours as fact without supporting evidence that any of it actually happened. If they did do the things they’re accused of then they absolutely deserve criticism, but if they didn’t then the response they’re getting is grossly disproportionate, as manufactured outrage so often is.

          • @zombiejesus Well that fan page whilst it says unofficalfanpage was their actual official fan page but was just early in its inception hence unofficial. So “if” that is true then finebros did ask their fans to attack or annoy Ellen D.

            All in all though it doesn’t matter as they’ve quit the whole fiasco.

  • The real world often skirts far too close to being a Dilbert comic.

    We live in a world where ‘all the good names are taken’ and now people are claiming ownership of common verbs.

  • I’m just watching their subs drop the thousands per hour, the fury of the internet is amazing and something I never, ever wish to ever face.

    • It definitely looks big, but right now they’ve only lost around 1.5% from their peak subs and the drop rate is slowing. Depends how the media pushes the story over the next few days but at the current rate I don’t think it’ll drop more than 5%.

      • Their total sub count is irrelevant since their video views are 10-20% of that. It’s how those lost subs comprise of their average video views. At this rate, which was over 200 a minute this morning, they’re heading towards 1 mil lost in another 3ish days, which would not be insignificant.

        • Total sub count is absolutely relevant because there’s no way to calculate whether lost subs are active viewers or not, so it has to be done statistically. They’ve lost 210,000 in total over the last 2 days, which is an average of 73 per minute, and the second day had 20,000 fewer lost subs than the first day. At that rate of sub change they’ll lose just under 500,000 subs in total, or 3.5% of their total subscriptions, before it starts to rise again.

          That said, the rate of decline for things like this tends to drop off rapidly after a few days of the relevant news as people stop caring, so I expect it’ll probably be a bit less.

        • Sorry to tag you on an old article, but I was curious what the mid-term effect of this was and thought you might be interested too. According to current stats they only lost about 454,000 subs, or about 3.2% of their total sub count. The backpedal video they put out didn’t seem to have much discernible effect on the rate of change curve (I don’t find this surprising), though without doubt they trashed any goodwill they had.

    • The problem is it sounds really similar to some dodgy stuff that’s been done recently, unless you have a pretty good grasp on variations of IP law.

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