The Trademark 8.22.2013
The reason I ultimately decided to surrender the trademark is a multi-sided answer.
I realized there were some pretty major missteps on my part. A trademark opposition is a pretty lengthy process, so it gives you a lot of down time and provides some distance from the situation. I realized I’d handled things incorrectly. I should have just contacted the admins of reddit and talked to them directly instead of issuing the C&D. To be honest, I didn’t have legal representation at that point and didn’t know what I was doing. I thought sending a C&D was what you were supposed to do, so I headed over to Legal Zoom and downloaded the form then filled in the blanks. It wasn’t until afterward when it made waves that I got my lawyer involved.
I didn’t understand the emotional ramifications for people in sending a C&D. It’s taken as an act of aggression. Which is ironic because if you ask anyone who knows me, they would say I’m the least aggressive person they know. I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me at the time, but it didn’t. As is the case with many things in life, hindsight is crystal clear.
For me, running the site was a very insulated experience because I mostly did it myself. I had one member who would occasionally write articles, but other than that I would work my day job then work on the site at night and had done so for 10 years. And I didn’t take part in any other gay gaming sites. When I had tried in the past and people found out that I ran gaymer.org, it would always end up in “your site blows, we love this site” or “this site blows, we love gaymer.org.” I could have anonymously joined and not listed my profile about my site, but that seemed disingenuous. I also wanted people to know. I was proud of the members and the site.
I do still feel that the work done with Gaymer.org was at the forefront of making a voice for gay gamers. There are now people that say there were already masses of gay gamers who called themselves gaymers when I started the site in 2003. In my experience, that simply isn’t true. They may have called themselves gaymers, but they were not vocal about it. If there had been an openly gay gaming site, there would have been no need for me to start one. There was once another site, but I could never really figure out if it was openly gay or had a "don’t ask don’t tell" policy. It seemed too on the down-low. And by the way, I never said I invented the word gaymer. That’s a common misconception. My trademark pertained to being the first to register use of the word gaymer in on-line commerce or service.
I felt someone needed to step up and say in no uncertain terms, “Yes we are gay and gamers.” No questions about it. Trust me, I looked all over the internet, the newgroups, social groups and I found one yahoo group that referred to themselves as gaymers, but their group was about games like D&D and was not very active. No one else seemed to be willing to, so I did it.
Lastly, I wanted to address closing Gaymer.org. The site was closed because I was just emotionally drained, and it had become too painful given the attacks on the site and myself. I can say that I handled the situation with diplomacy and respect by not name calling and harassing them, since day one of the trademark dealings. The same cannot be said of my opposers. They were relentless in their pursuit to make sure the claws were out and viciousness ruled. It was like being stuck in a loop for the gay version of Mean Girls. The disagreement was not honorable on their part – there were countless low blows and cheap shots. That put me in tears on many days. It’s perfectly fine to disagree and take action accordingly, but to publicly behead anyone is not ok.
I have certainly learned a lot from my mistakes in this. I hope that other people have learned that just because you have the freedom to say what you want, you shouldn’t give in to the impulse just because you can.
We are closed 6.20.2013
The world is a very different place than it was 10 years ago when I started the site. This is also true for the Internet. There wasn’t a clear beacon for gay gamers. We had no voice. If there had been, there would have been no need for me to start a site.
Back in 2003, the word gaymer was an insult so I thought that making it into a positive by naming the site gaymer.org was a cool idea.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m involved in some legal muck with the members of the subreddit /r/gaymers who do not agree with my having the word Gaymer trademarked which I’ve had since 2008. My trademark, in a nutshell, is use of the word gaymer for an online community that is about video games.
Last year I emailed reddit several times asking they change their subreddits with gaymer in the name to something else if they pertained to video games. I got no responses so I sent them a cease and desist letter. An employee at Reddit that goes by Spladug leaked the wrong information. He said I was trying to shut them all down. That was not true. It was for a name change. That started some pretty ugly remarks from the members at /r/gaymers.
The /r/gaymer moderator, Mr. Ghost, got wind of what Spladug said, directly or indirectly I’m not sure then posted a scathing letter. That post tipped an avalanche of nasty comments from Mr. Ghost and the /r/gaymers members. Nasty. Vicious. Mean.
I went over to them and posted the truth and apologize for the misunderstanding which didn’t go over very well as a mob mentality had already taken hold. Any comment I made over there were down-voted into oblivion so I’m not sure many people even saw them.
After Reddit received the letter, I was contacted by the General Manager, Erik Martin, who said of the unreturned emails:
“You probably emailed our general feedback email, which until recently was seldom if ever checked. So, apologies for that. Not professional on our part.”
Erik also said of Spladug giving the wrong information:
“Spladug is an employee and afraid it was just a case of confusion and poor communication all around. He didn't mean to kick off bad press. None of us wanted any press on this.”
When I let him know about the bad press he was apologetic which I appreciated but part of his comment was “that sucks.” It sounded to me like Reddit was being run by a bunch of interns. How can you have a general feedback box set up and not check it? And should you really have to explain to your employees that telling people the wrong information is bad?
He did suggested this as a resolution which was a good idea:
“What if the /r/gaymers subreddit had a very prominent disclaimer in the sidebar that they were not affiliated with gaymers.org and acknowledged your trademark, as well as a prominent and positive link to your site?”
I thought that was a great idea and agreed. It was a win/win. /r/gaymers didn't have to change anything and and I got a boost in traffic.
The disclaimer went up but the prominent and friendly link did not. I figured my site was named in the disclaimer so that was fine for now. After things cooled down, I’d revisit them about the link.
When the articles started to come out, people who didn’t at least try to talk to me about it were making public statements slamming the trademark and the site. In particular, GaymerCon coming out against me was a thorn in the paw because it if not for gaymer.org, GaymerCon might not have seen the light of day. I say that with not a drop of arrogance though it might sound like it. I say it with certainty because I watched how the word “gaymer” evolved and changed from day one of opening the site. For instance, if you googled gaymer in 2003, the only things that came up was some lady that had gaymer as a last name and forum posts using gaymer as a pejorative. That's exactly why I started gaymer.org.
I’m not sure where all the people that claimed to be proud self identified gaymers were back then but you weren’t being vocal on the Internet, that much I can tell you. You can retro search on google. Here is what you got when you searched gaymer in 2003.
Some time after opening my site, other gay gaming sites popped up but most never stuck. I always believed that gaymer.org has heart and soul. That’s why it’s lasted all this time. That’s when I thought to trademark because if people are copying what you are doing, it means you are on to something and you better protect what you built. Gaygamer.net is another example of a great gay gaming site with heart and soul.
Apparently the deal they accepted wasn’t good enough for /r/gaymers because I got a letter from their lawyers - they filed a petition to cancel the trademark. I found soon after they were getting their legal representation pro bono and it was Perkins Coie doing the filing. Big big firm. They also had the EFF on their side. All of this based on the wrong information.
I though, “Oh shit, I’m screwed.”
But then I though what the site and what the word gaymer meant to me. It was like a house that I had built and like any house, you would want your name on the deed.
So I decided to stand up for what I believed in but I had to figure out a way to do it where that didn’t involve going broke. I wasn’t getting pro bono. People don’t like to help you when are perceived as the devil. The site and my name already had been dragged through the mud thanks to Mister Ghost, Spladug and a heaping helping of misinformation which sparked all the bad press but I decided to defend 10 years of work. I had to at least try.
I also had to be realistic though. I'm just a regular person with a normal job and make a modest salary. Basically, I’m up against a huge law firm with unlimited resources plus the EFF was in on it. Some chick that works at the EFF said, “This registration isn't being used to protect consumers – it's being used to threaten free speech." Which was ridiculous so I knew there was at least one moron at the EFF and hoped there would be some at Perkins Coie.
My legal Hail Mary play was to file a motion to dismiss their motion to cancel the trademark. If that went my way then this would all be over with and I wouldn't have a big lawyer bill. Well filing a motion to dismiss a motion is way more expensive than it sounds and I have the bill to prove it.
Plus, it didn’t work. The trademark board denied my motion.
I’m letting go. I’d just be outspent if I pushed the case forward. Closing the site might seem like a case of sour grapes but it’s really not.
I had a couple of goals in mind when I began the site. One was to make change - make change for the word gaymer and gay gamers themselves. I wanted to give them someplace safe to come when they were called names. I wanted them to feel not so alone in the gaming world and feel unconditionally accepted. Another goal was to help people meet each other. They did. They became friends, boyfriends and, in one case, two people got married. I’m extremely proud of that.
Here it is 10 years later. The word gaymer has changed so much that people are willing to fight for it. I couldn’t ask for more if I’m going to lose the trademark. It wasn’t for nothing.
I come from the school of thought that, if create something and you put in the hours, the work, the money and your heart in it, that it belongs to you. I thought that's part of what being an American was about. Especially if you played by the book and took all the right legal channels. What I found out in the end that it doesn't matter what you do, if a big law firm powerful enough comes along and wants to take it, they will and there's not much you can do about it.
The reason I’m closing the site is because the goals were accomplished but also because I feel disconnected from gay gamers having seen their ugly side though all of this. I know it’s not all gay gamers from the members of my site but its was enough of them saying hurtful things so loudly that it has put me off. What was once a source of passion has now become a source of pain and it’s time to walk away and say goodbye.
I hope the passion comes back one day because if it does, the site will come back up.
To the members, I wanted to say thank you for all the fun. You will be missed more than you know. :(
If any of you can help out with the lawyer bill, that would be awesome and really appreciated. Just click the donate button.