A recent decision by two YouTube bloggers to cancel their portfolio of trade mark applications serves as an important reminder for businesses to always take into account the commercial considerations of their actions.
Brothers Benny and Rafi Fine run one of YouTube's most successful channels, Fine Brothers Entertainment, which has almost 14 million subscribers. The Fine brothers made their name with their hit series Kids React which involves videos showing the reaction of children when shown certain object or videos. Such was the success of this series that the brothers ran a number of spin off series including Adults React and YouTubers react. The 'reaction videos' led to a trend on YouTube with other YouTube users creating their own reaction videos, most of which use the word 'react' in the title.
Following the success of the reactions series, the Fine Brothers set out to do what many businesses would have done in the same circumstances - seek to protect their brand and their dominant position by filing for a number of trade marks. Amongst the trade mark applications that the brothers filed for were the words 'react', 'kids react' and 'adults react', all under class 41 for entertainment services.
The trade mark applications led to a YouTube backlash against the Fine brothers, with users concerned that they were attempting to police the use of reaction videos and the term 'react'. Now, after losing hundreds of thousands of followers, the brothers have apologised and announced that they have rescinded the entire portfolio of applications.
This is yet another example of the power of social media and the Internet and an important reminder that business decisions do not always make commercial sense. One of the reasons that YouTube bloggers such as the Fine Brothers are so successful is that the channels they run are not operated by large corporations. More often than not, these are people that the general public can relate to. So whilst Benny and Rafi may have thought that this made business sense, what they didn't consider was their reliance on an audience that celebrates the openness and freedom of platforms such as YouTube.
It goes without saying that it remains as important as ever for businesses to protect the IP that they create. However, commercial considerations should always be taken into account and this situation serves as a reminder that whilst it can take years to build a brand, that brand can be destroyed within seconds if not managed with care.