A dispute over a California company’s attempt to trademark Doge has roiled the Internet into a fury of confusion and argument over the move’s implications for the popular Internet meme and its offshoots, such as Dogecoin. The controversy has led one of Dogecoin’s cofounders to leave the cryptocurrency community and another digital currency platform to file an opposition to the trademark application, but little new information about the future of Doge has come out as a result of the backlash.
Though Ultra PRO, a California-based sports memorabilia company, announced its intention to trademark Doge nearly four months ago, public attention (and anger) gathered steam only over last weekend.
“We are pleased to announce the launch of a new line of accessories based on Kabosu, a cute and lovely Shiba Inu which inspired countless ‘Doge’ memes across the internet,” the company wrote on its news blog March 1.
The fluffy and expressive-faced canine Kabosu rocketed to Internet fame as the face of Doge after a picture posted by her owner online in 2010 went viral last year.
Ultra PRO filed an application with the U.S. patent office to trademark Doge two weeks after the blog post. Though the patent office has yet to publish its decision on the application, Ultra PRO already has Doge deck boxes and deck protectors with the dog’s image for sale, with play mats and clothing lines upcoming.
Ultra PRO framed the new Doge lines as a charity-minded endeavour, saying that a portion of all product sales would be donated to Kabosu’s owner to animal shelters throughout Japan.
Still, the offering to homeless animals failed to quell Doge enthusiasts across the Internet, sparking what one Redditor called a “circlejerk of fury and fear” over the so-called “end of Dogecoin” to be brought about by Ultra PRO’s trademark of the word.
“We do not negotiate with patent trolls, nor sink to their level,” a Dogecoin administrator posted on the cryptocurrency’s Twitter feed. “Anyone attempting to trademark ‘doge’ or “Dogecoin” is not a true shibe.”
“Anyone attempting to trademark ‘doge’ or “Dogecoin” is not a true shibe.”
Cryptocurrency platform Moolah also said Monday it would file a notice of opposition to the trademark with the patent office. American law allows opponents to trademark applications to register complaints explaining why it would be damaging to them.
Ultra PRO, in response to the (undoubtedly surprise) firestorm, tried to reassure the community, saying it did not intend to lock down Doge if the trademark was approved.
“We didn’t file a trademark with the intention of going after any existing vendors,” Ultra PRO manager Jay Kuo said in an email published by Dogecoin cofounder Jackson Palmer. “We are, however, creating and selling products through a license of Kabosu’s image, and we needed a defining name for the product line, and ‘doge’ was the obvious choice.”
Palmer defended Ultra PRO in the post, saying it seemed clear the company’s trademark would not affect Dogecoin, and went on to attack Moolah for its opposition filing, questioning the financial platform’s motives.
“Moolah seems to be using this as an excuse however to trademark ‘Dogecoin’ itself under the guise of protecting our community,” he wrote on Dogecoin’s Reddit.
Palmer’s remarks then sparked an online feud with Alex Green, Moolah’s creator, a heated back-and-forth over the best course of action for the Dogecoin community that eventually led to Palmer announcing he was leaving the cryptocurrency’s Reddit. “Unsubshibing. Peace,” Palmer wrote.
Many community members have leapt to Moolah’s defense, lauding the company’s decision to take action against the trademark filing. Ultra PRO, meanwhile, held a Reddit AMA on Tuesday affirming it had no intention of using the trademark against any Doge meme or Dogecoin, and were open to Moolah’s filing of the opposition notice to protect the cryptocurrency community. The company said, however, it would still go ahead with the trademark application to legally protect itself for the Doge products it has already developed.
Despite the online debates and dispute that continue unabated, more information about the fate of Doge won’t be available until next month, when the U.S. patent office publishes its decision on Ultra PRO’s trademark application in light of Moolah’s opposition filing.
The patent office is scheduled to publish the decision on July 8.