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World War Meme: Trademark Fight Breaks Out Over Use of “Meme”

World War Meme - Trademarking Memes
World War Meme has set up a trademark fight for the digital age.

Although many people view “memes” as a modern digital creation, the term has actually been in use since at least 1976. In what could prove to be an integral case in trademark law, though, a modern case may now decide whether a brand can claim ownership over World War Meme.

World War Meme vs What Do You Meme

On May 20, 2021, the brand What Do You Meme, LLC filed a trademark opposition against Doing Things Media, LLC over their trademark application for ‘World War Meme.’ The filing claims that granting the registration of the term would create a likelihood of confusion among consumers and cause dilution by blurring. The opposition focuses on the use of the term for “card games and trading cards for games.”

Trademark disputes often occur when small companies infringe on the rights of larger corporations. In this instance, though, both brands are substantial. What Do You Meme once had the top selling game on Amazon, and Doing Things Media has over 40 million followers just on Instagram.

Both companies built their success on the use of internet memes – albeit in different ways. While What Do You Meme manufactures pop culture games, Doing Things Media creates advertisements that convincingly masquerade as memes. And though the terms “What Do You Meme” and “World War Meme” hardly seem comparable, their perceived similarities are at the heart of this trademark dispute.

Can Someone Trademark ‘Meme’?

In the filing to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), What Do You Meme claims that they have acquired distinctiveness over their brand name. They also list several trademark registrations currently on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While they certainly may have gained rights over this term, the question at hand involves how far these rights go.

It is not uncommon for a brand to achieve trademark protection over common words. ‘Burger King,’ for example, is recognized around the world. Even with this recognition, though, they’re unlikely to assert that another fast food chain using the word “burger” would constitute trademark infringement. This appears to be what’s happening in the case before the TTAB.

In the opposition, What Do You Meme claims:

“Applicant’s trademark makes a highly similar commercial impression to the WHAT DO YOU MEME?  trademark due, in part, to the fact the Applicant’s Mark appropriates the distinctive term “MEME,” as used, in a confusing fashion.”

The question at hand is whether the use of “meme” is actually done in “a confusing fashion.” In their October 2020 application, Doing Things Media stated that their registration was “intended to cover the category of collectable trading cards.” And while What Do You Meme offers similar products, it’s difficult to see how the use of “meme” is anymore confusing for either brand.

What Do You Meme will have to demonstrate that confusion would likely occur among consumers if the USPTO granted registration of World War Meme. Considering the only similarities between these identifiers is the common term “meme,” though, this may be a tall order.

What Comes Next?

Once What Do You Meme filed the notice of opposition, a countdown started for Doing Things Media to submit an answer. The TTAB set a preliminary deadline of June 29, 2021 for the latter to respond to the opposition. They could forgo their attempt to garner rights over the World War Meme trademark, but if they choose to fight back, the TTAB case could push into the end of 2022.

The TTAB is only one potential avenue for the parties involved. The case could eventually end up before a federal judge, and at that point, monetary damages and a trademark injunction would become options.

 

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