Minority groups and labels have always had a complicated, sometimes tense relationship.
The terms and monikers concocted by dominant cultures are often reclaimed, taken back and reworked for the group’s own purposes. The term queer is the most common example from the LGBT experience. Other times, though, the groups think of their own nomenclature, one created to provide linguistic insulation from a hostile culture. For example, video game-loving gay people call themselves “gaymers,” hence the name of Chris Vizzini’s website, Gaymer.org.
Vizzini trademarked that expression, and has been trying to get reddit’s “gaymer” community to find a new terminology. To make clear he means business, he sent reddit a cease and desist letter demanding the popular site create its own designation.
Furious flesh-and-blood gaymers on reddit have now filed a petition with the U.S. Trademarks and Patents Office to take back “gaymer.” According to them, gaymer belongs to the community and should therefore be exempt from copyright status.
Ars Technica outlines the case and the gaymer case:
The “gaymer” trademark is claimed by Chris Vizzini, who also blogs at his website, gaymer.org. Vizzini sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reddit complaining about the /r/gaymers subreddit. That got the group’s attention, and caused it to lawyer up. /r/gaymers now has pro bono lawyers from a major law firm, Perkins Coie, as well as from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The purpose of trademark law is to protect consumers by making sure they know the true origin of goods and services. The /r/gamers petition, prepared by lawyers at Perkins Coie and EFF, argues that Vizzini’s trademark is a distortion of the law’s purpose, and should be canceled.
“This registration should never have been granted,” said EFF lawyer Corynne McSherry in a statement today. “Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and make sure the term goes back to the public domain where it belongs.”
The lawsuit points out, “Public use of the word gaymer dates back to at least the early 1990s, when a growing group of individuals within the gaming community began using it to identify themselves.”
“Due to this long period of widespread, generic use, the relevant public has come to recognize gaymer as a common term for individuals within the LGBT community who have an active interest in video games and the online video game community,” it reads.
To that point, reddit user Ozuri wrote a post about their own adoption of the term, and how it’s interlaced with his or her identity:
… I grew up in an age when being a nerd was not a synonym for tech savvy entrepreneur with a high-paying job at Google; it meant social stigma, awkward interactions with peers and coming in last on the day we ran laps. Coupled with the crippling anxiety of being gay (and for me, being from an evangelical Christian background), being a gay nerd who loved video games was the proverbial hat trick of otherness…
For me, it is the marrying of my hobby and a part of my identity that allowed me to grow into my own as an adult. I am a gaymer.
Mr. Vizzini, you keep using the word ‘gaymer'; I do not think it means what you think it means. To the rest of us, it means community. It means pride in our differentness and our small community. It means inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness.
Vizzini defended himself last September, when the embers of this public war were only just beginning to burn on reddit, and told the community there that he was simply defending what was rightfully his:
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.
What say you, reader? Does Vizzini have a valid point or is he unnecessarily trying to take a public term private?