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Fine Brothers: Trademarks and Branding

Trademarks and branding are an important part of any business organization.  They build the organization’s reputation in providing a product or service.  In late January, the Fine Brothers, had made an attempt to begin a new business venture in licensing their trademarks and intellectual property to create a larger media congregation called “React World.”  The brothers had built a business on producing videos showing the reactions of different subsets of the population, from children to the elderly.  In doing so, they would monetize the videos through sponsorship and advertisement.  To ensure their ability to monetize and license their intellectual property, they applied for trademarks for the words “React,” “Kids React,” and other derivatives.  This prompted a backlash by individuals, fearing that the actions by the Fine Brothers would be used to curtail their activities on the web.  The sheer magnitude from this backlash led to the Fine Brothers withdrawing their application from the process and cancelling their plans.

Notwithstanding the public backlash, the Fine Brothers would likely have their application approved and pushed beyond the public contest phase if they had only waited a little while longer.  The public contest phase is exactly where the Fine Brothers managed to fail.  If they had not brought attention to their trademarking efforts, it would have likely passed through the process.

In general, in the trademark application process, after the trademark examiner tentatively approves a mark, there is a 30-day period to file an opposition. This is open to all individuals that may be harmed by the mark, not just those with similar marks.  As such, the public was able to protest the granting of the “React” trademark.  When seeking a trademark application, the sort of public outcry that occurred in response to the “React” trademark should be avoided.  The 30-day period, while it would be available to the public, did not need to be publicized as with the Fine Brothers.  In filing a trademark that may garner some public opposition, there is no need to draw further attention to it.  If the brothers had not withdrawn their application, this type of opposition would have been heard by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, and overcome by the Fine Brothers.

While this issue may not be applicable to all businesses, it is certainly an important decision to maintain the integrity of a brand, especially one online that relies on an internet-savvy audience, to cater to the culture of its global consumers.  The Fine Brothers were limited by their business model reliant on YouTube, which could be seen to be part of a larger remix culture.

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