YouTube is awash with videos created by recording the reaction of a range of people as they watch videos (or, indeed, witness anything from toys launches to old luxury items). A significant number of those clips originate from the YouTube channel ‘React’ owned and run by the Fine Brothers.
As a successful YouTube channel, the Fine Brothers will be receiving a portion of the advertising generated through their videos. Not content with this, the Fine Brothers have sought to further capitalise on their success by trade marking the video names such as ‘Kids React’ and ‘React’ and licensing the use of this name along with the format.
The likelihood of being granted a trademark over the names would be low at best. The ‘React’ trade mark will likely be too generic and descriptive to be distinctive of the Fine Brothers videos alone and if granted would have given the brothers an unjustified monopoly of the phrase. Furthermore, there is unlikely to be any copyright protection over the format of the video clips which would have allowed the brothers to prevent rivals producing similar videos.
However the move by the brothers has not gone down well with their customer base. The youthful and transient nature of the internet audience (who are used to finding alternative sources of entertainment) has meant that the YouTube channel has lost of thousands of subscribers and advertising revenue. So much so that the brothers have now withdrawn their plans and abandoned their applications.
It is part of an increasing trend of public backlashes against businesses trying to over assert their position. Red Bull was forced to withdraw threats of trade mark infringement made against Redwell Brewery (a small brewer based in the UK) once details of its threats began to make the news and in the USA, Lagunitas Brewing Company had to withdraw their action against Sierra Nevada over the use of the specific font of IPA lettering following a public backlash.
Whilst many small companies will still be bullied into submission by some rights owners, it is important that those owners consider more carefully whether they wish to take action and the potential public backlash it may cause. The majority of cases will never be picked up by the public at large, but where it is, the potential damage can be significant.
The makers of one of YouTube’s biggest channels have dropped plans to trademark and license a popular video format – after facing outcry from fans.
The Fine Brothers’ “reaction videos” show people responding to online clips.
But a plan to license the format to other video-makers was met with a digital backlash, costing the brothers hundreds of thousands of subscribers.