Reddit: Anyone can start a subreddit, and back in 2012 Jaime Rogozinski started r/WallStreetBets. Over the years, the site attracted millions of subscribers talking about aggressive trading strategies; providing middle-school humor; and pumping-up various stocks (e.g., GameStop).
In 2020, Reddit removed Rogozinski from his role controlling the subreddit as moderator, concluding that he was “attempting to monetize a community.” Rogozinski had published a book titled WallStreetBets and also filed trademark registration application for the mark WALLSTREETBETS, with him as the owner. Of course, lots of folks are monetizing their subreddits, but I have not heard of others registering a TM on the subreddit name. Immediately after removing Rogozinski from control, Reddit filed competing registration applications for the same mark and continues to control the subreddit. Opposition proceedings are now pending before the TTAB.
Reddit claims control and ownership because the subreddit is on its site and under its control; Rogozinsky argues that he did all the work building the brand for himself – not for Reddit. The issues in this case are interesting because they are similar to those being debated with regard to AI ownership and attribution. Here, the difference is that we have a corporate owner rather than an AI. And, although both the company and Rogozinsky had input in the creation — what really made this valuable is the input and connection to millions of users. Similarly, AI works well only if it has good input data — typically obtained by scooping up and examined up so many copyrighted works and user data.
In addition to the opposition proceedings, Rogozinski has now sued Reddit in Federal Court, asserting infringement of his unregistered WallStreetBets mark; infringement of his registered mark WSB; as well as violations of contract, rights of publicity, and duty of good faith and fair dealing. James R. Lawrence, III is representing the plaintiff.
Should be interesting.