If you don’t know what an internet meme is, let me first congratulate you on living what is most likely an emotionally healthy and self-actualized life. For the rest of us who plumb the depths of the internet daily, we know that a meme is a type of shorthand to express a certain reaction, ranging from socially awkward penguins to grumpy cats to Captain Picard expressing his incredulity with salty language, and anything in between. One of the most popular of all internet memes is that of Doge, a picture of a Shiba Inu dog expressing its amazement in a series of somewhat nonsensical phrases. But as one company looks to capitalize on the popularity of the meme, it might find itself in for many legal challenges and much aggravation.
Ultra Star Entertainment LLC has filed to trademark the use of the word “doge” for use on clothing, specifically “men’s women’s and children’s wearing apparel, namely, shirts, pants, jeans, sweaters, sweatpants, sweatshirts, shorts, T-shirts, and pajamas.” While this certainly isn’t the first attempt to monetize an internet meme, the Ultra Star filing may have further reaching consequences than a property such as Grumpy Cat (who would undoubtedly be in favor of consequences of any kind). The doge meme served as the inspiration for the creators of the cryprocurrency Dogecoin (not to be confused with Bitcoin.) When news of the Ultra Pro filing began to circulate the Internet, the digital currency platform Moolah announced its intentions to file in opposition to the trademark application on Twitter:
Trademark. Notice of opposition. Imminent filing. #dogecoin— Moolah (@moolah_io) June 23, 2014
Moolah has expressed its desire to protect its customers and merchants that either use Dogecoin or sell doge-related merchandise, a claim which Dogecoin co-founder Jackson Palmer disputes. Palmer claims any action taken on the part of Moolah is simply an effort to try and preserve the Dogecoin brand so they can file a trademark on it themselves in the future. Ultra Pro, for its part, has stated that the filing is simply to protect itself from future lawsuits from other companies manufacturing doge products, and have no intent to take action against other vendors to restrict the doge market.
Skeptics (or depending on your outlook, cynics) wonder if the company might renege on that promise down the road should it become financially viable for them to enforce the mark. Regardless, if that protection is granted on July 8, the doge community may be left to rely on the word and good intentions of Ultra Pro or risk losing the good-natured canine to the world of commercial use.
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