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Sony's attempt to trademark 'Let's Play' dealt critical blow by gaming law firm

USPTO finds that 'Let's Play' is 'merely descriptive' with regard to video games

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has now said that "Let's Play" is "merely descriptive" as it pertains to video gaming, a ruling that likely ends Sony Interactive Entertainment's earlier attempt to trademark the phrase.

Sony's trademark application surfaced two weeks ago, showing the PlayStation maker and games publisher wanted the mark for its "electronic transmission and streaming of video games via global and local computer networks," among other uses.

The application was originally refused because the USPTO found "Let's Play" too similar to "Letz Play," which is held by a Georgia company engaged in the online gaming business. Sony still had six months to answer the ruling and plead its case.

As "Let's Play" has been a common title of playthroughs posted by video gamers to YouTube, many saw Sony's trademark application as a bid to shut them down entirely. "Let's Play" videos uploaded to YouTube have been the subject of much controversy going back to late 2013, with many videos sanctioned because the game footage they depict is claimed as copyrighted.

The McArthur Law Firm, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in intellectual property law and video games, filed an objection to Sony's trademark application shortly after seeing the news, and cited more than 50 common uses of "let's play" in video gaming.

That led to the USPTO's new finding, on Monday, that "Let's Play" is "merely descriptive" for this purpose, though Sony's trademark application remains active. Sony still has until June 29 to provide some compelling argument against these two findings if it still seeks this trademark.

McArthur Law, for its part, is confident that the "merely descriptive" finding by the USPTO makes it highly unlikely Sony could prevail if it appeals the original refusal of the trademark application.

Sony hasn't yet commented on the trademark application or its intentions here, but Polygon reached out to a U.S. representative just in case.