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Wake-up Call For Creators: Reddit Wins the WallStreetBets Trademark Battle Against the Subreddit’s Founder

The court determined that when Reddit user Jaime Rogozinski created the subreddit in 2012, it counted as Reddit's first use of it.
Cover Image Source: Creators might not own or have control over the things they have created on platforms like Reddit (representational image) | Photo by Pixabay| Pexels
Cover Image Source: Creators might not own or have control over the things they have created on platforms like Reddit (representational image) | Photo by Pixabay| Pexels

The legal tussle over who owns WallStreetBets, the platform that sparked the whole meme stock craze in 2021, raised a pretty big question about social media and who gets to own the trademarks that get popular online. The court had to figure out if the trademark belonged to the platform itself or the person who created the online community that made the mark famous.

Now, in the case of the founder of r/WallStreetBets, a guy named Jaime Rogozinski, who took Reddit to court, the judge said Reddit gets to keep the rights to the trademark. This is because Reddit was the first one to use those marks. Now, why does this matter? Well, it matters because people are making money off their brands on social media and this court decision could be a bit of a warning. Creators might not own or have control over the things they have created, especially on platforms like Reddit. Reddit doesn't just host content; it creates these unique communities, each with its name and brand.

Image source: Photo by Anna Nekrashevich | pEXELS
Founder of r/WallStreetBets, a guy named Jaime Rogozinski, took Reddit to court (representational image) | Pexels | Photo by Anna Nekrashevich 

Over the past few years, many people interested in investing have been hanging out on this subreddit called WallStreetBets. It has over 13 million subscribers. It even got a bit of fame when it was featured in a show called Dumb Money for playing a big role in the GameStop and AMC Networks situation against big Wall Street players.

So, here's what went down: Rogozinski, who started the subreddit back in 2012, sued Reddit after they kicked him out as a moderator. Why? Well, he was trying to make money off the community by promoting his book and an esports competition, which wasn't allowed by Reddit's rules. But Rogozinski argued that the real reason he got the boot was because he filed a trademark application in 2020 to officially own WallStreetBets. He thought Reddit was trying to own all these popular subreddits to support its IPO (basically, when a company goes public and starts selling shares to the public).

The court didn't buy it. The judge said Reddit claimed ownership of WallStreetBets when Rogozinski first created the subreddit in 2012.

Now, why does this matter even more? Well, Rogozinski argued that even if Reddit started using the trademark, he should still be the big-shot owner in the "cryptocurrency-related goods and services" market. But the court said, "Nope." There wasn't enough proof that Reddit was using the mark in a way that mattered.

Image Source: Photo by Anna Nekrashevich| Pexels
Reddit logo | Pexels | Photo by Anna Nekrashevich

There were also some other legal claims Rogozinski made like violations of state law such as the right of publicity, breach of contract, and unfair competition. But the court said these claims are a no-go because of a law called section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law shields platforms like Reddit from being held responsible for what users post on their sites.

Now, Rogozinski also tried a different angle, saying he wouldn't have spent over eight years building up his audience on Reddit if he knew they could take it away at any time. But the judge said, "Sorry, just because you say you wouldn't have spent that much time doesn't cut it."

Neither Reddit nor Rogozinski gave any comments on the whole situation. The court said Reddit owns the trademark for WallStreetBets, and this could be a heads-up for other creators on social media about how they might not have as much control as they think.