Acronyms like “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) or “TIL” (Today I Learned) have become a part of colloquial language that we might forget that these words originated organically from Reddit, one of the top ten most popular social media sites. Founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, Reddit averages 52 million users per day.
Most recently in February 2021, Reddit users rallied together in the subreddit r/wallstreetbets to shake up the stock market when thousands of users bought $GME stock, causing Gamestock’s stock price to soar over 1700% in 20 days. Overnight, “wall street bets” was discussed by news anchors around the world.
What is a Subreddit?
While other generically-named subreddits like r/pics, r/awww, and r/funny have soared in popularity due to our society’s need for memes and internet cat pictures, certain subreddits have become iconic phrases associated with Reddit. A subreddit is a community where users talk about a specific topic that is typically the subreddit’s name, preceded by “r/” (ex. r/games, r/movies, r/news, etc.).
So, what trademarks does Reddit own? Reddit now has 61 registered trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That number might seem low in comparison to their size, but Twitter only has registrations for 86 trademarks (including rights to the word “tweet”). Facebook surprisingly only has 200 trademark registrations. Here are some registered trademarks Reddit owns that you’re probably familiar with.
1. ASK ME ANYTHING and AMA
r/AMA was founded in May 2009 and now has over 600k members. The unique question-and-answer format became wildly popular and has attracted AMA interviews from mega-celebrities such as Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Jerry Seinfeld.
This subreddit has also been a platform for whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Sophie Zhang, who became a whistleblower at Facebook in September 2020 accusing the social media giant of allowing the spread of misinformation and election interference to continue on its platform.
Reddit filed its first trademark application for the mark “AMA” in March 2016 and has been active since September 2017.
In 2014, Reddit tried to register the service mark “AMA” for Class 38’s “online forums” but was refused due to confusion with the mark “AMA ON DEMAND” which was owned by professional online training company, American Management Association International. Reddit was eventually successful in 2016 when they registered again under Class 41’s “entertainment services” when the owners of the AMA ON DEMAND mark had since abandoned their application.
2. EXPLAIN LIKE I’M FIVE and ELI5
“Explain Like I’m Five” means “explain a complicated topic to me like I’m 5 years old.” The r/ELI5 subreddit was created on July 28, 2011 and now boasts 19.6m users.
The top 3 most popular ELI5 threads of all time:
Even though this subreddit has been around for almost 10 years, Reddit did not apply to register the trademarks for both ELI5 and EXPLAIN LIKE I’M FIVE until late October 2019. Both were officially registered in late July 2020.
3. AM I THE A**HOLE?
There’s no better description for the 2.9m-member r/AmItheAsshole subreddit, created in 2013, than its own:
“A catharsis for the frustrated moral philosopher in all of us, and a place to finally find out if you were wrong in an argument that’s been bothering you. Tell us about any non-violent conflict you have experienced; give us both sides of the story, and find out if you’re right, or you’re the asshole.”https://www.reddit.com/r/AmItheAsshole/
Millions of users have used this forum as a self-adjudication in morality. Questions like “AITA for getting two coworkers fired in my first 3 weeks at a new job?” and “AITA For suing my girlfriend after she had my 1967 impala project taken to the scrapyard?” make for some seriously intriguing internet-stranger-back-and-forth. (Sidenote, the internet has declared that yes, if your girlfriend takes your ‘67 Impala to the scrapyard, you are not an a**hole for being angry.)
Reddit filed a registration for the uncensored version of AM I THE A**HOLE in February 2020. After a routine clarification request from the USPTO, the registration for “electronic publishing services, namely, publication of user-defined content on-line featuring interesting stories” was approved in February 2021 followed by the registration for “computer services, namely, creating virtual communities for registered users to organize groups, participate in discussions, get feedback from their peers, and engage in social networking and communication” in October 2020.
4. NATURE IS F*CKING LIT
This gloriously fascinating subreddit is a modern day tribute to how amazing nature can be. Common posts show the aftermath of devastating or fascinating weather events or animals in the wild performing wildly entertaining instinctive tasks. But sometimes, users catch moments like the time a beluga whale returned an iphone dropped in the ocean to its owner. Or when a wildlife photographer captured this freakishly large and human-looking eagle.
Here is a seal who “has reached peak level of chill”:
As one of the more recent subreddits founded 5 years ago in 2016, there are 5.3m subscribers. Reddit filed this trademark application on March 4, 2020 which was approved on September 15, 2020.
“Showerthought” is a loose term that applies to the types of thoughts you might have while carrying out a routine task like showering, driving, or daydreaming. At their best, showerthoughts are universally relatable and find the amusing/interesting within the mundane.
As one of Reddit’s largest subreddits with close to 23m users, r/showerthoughts quite simply makes you think about facts you may have never realized. Per the FAQ, a “showerthought” is different from a “common thought” or an “unoriginal thought” (which are both not allowed).
“In simplest terms, a showerthought is a miniature epiphany that makes the mundane more interesting. Showerthoughts are not personal perspectives (“I wonder if anyone has ever eaten every ice cream flavor…”), ideas for new practices or products (“We should require people to have a license before they can use the Internet.”), questions (rhetorical or otherwise), jokes, or instances of wordplay.”https://www.reddit.com/r/Showerthoughts/
Reddit filed the application for the SHOWERTHOUGHTS trademark on February 19, 2020 and received registration on November 17, 2020.
This is Part 1 of a multi-part blog series that will also cover Reddit’s pending marks and possible controversy of ownership.