Let’s Play, YouTube and video games

Print publication


Among the most watched videos on YouTube are videos of people playing computer games. Felix Kjellberg, perhaps better known as PewDiePie, for example, may not be a household name to all of us but the Swedish twenty-something attracts many more subscribers to his YouTube videos than better known celebrities (Justin Bieber to name but one) and last year alone he made several millions of dollars from associated advertising.  Kjellberg’s videos show him playing computer games.  Kjellberg is not alone and may “YouTubers” make a comfortable living this way.

A number of these types of YouTube video are entitled “Let’s Play” and a “Let’s Play” is commonly known as a video where gamers play a game and share that experience with others. Sony applied for registration of the trade mark “Let’s Play” in the United States. The application was followed with interest by the gaming community.

Rather unsurprisingly, the US Patents and Trademark Office has recently refused the application. What is surprising, however, is that the application was refused on the ground that the mark is confusingly similar to an earlier registered mark, namely “Let’z Play of America”, owned by a Georgia-based company that organises and connects video games with online and offline events. In other words, the refusal was not based on the more obvious issue that the expression “Let’s Play” is the title or introduction to a number of YouTube videos, or indeed that the words are so commonplace that they are incapable of distinguishing Sony’s products from those of its competitors. That said, however, it is likely that the application would have bee refused on these grounds in the absence of the already registered mark.

Sony has until 29 June to appeal the decision.