A couple of video bloggers have given us a fantastic lesson on trademark law and some holiday positivity all rolled into one YouTube post.
Some quick background: VlogBrothers are wildly popular YouTubers with roughly 1.6 million subscribers, referred to lovingly as “Nerdfighters.” The VlogBrothers end their vlogs with the phrase “Don’t forget to be awesome.”
As VlogBrother John Green points out in the video below, the duo didn’t invent the phrase, but they sure made it popular.
Now, the phrase is showing up in Aeropostale ads, on an Urban Outfitters rug and, of all places, Pier One.
It’s also showing up on Etsy, where Nerdfighters are creating “awesome” pieces of wearable, hangable, and greeting cardable art featuring the phrase.
If they go through the trouble to shut down Urban Outfitters and the rest of the commercializers, they also would have to shut down the hardworking Nerdfighters selling their DFTBA gear on Etsy. It’s a fight the VlogBrothers say they are not willing to undertake.
Even so, the issue of brands appropriating online slogans, art and other content as their own is one that’s becoming more and more prominent. Are the brands that are using “Don’t forget to be awesome” to sell products justified, or should they back off?