Don’t say “Would You Rather”
A story about board games, trademarks, and why Spin Master wants us to hand over our site.
Skipping ahead? Court documents are at the bottom.
Over the past four years we’ve asked you a lot of questions. 320 million answers later, we’ve learned a lot about you delightfully opinionated folks. If you have a hot minute, we’d like to break character and use declarative sentences for a bit. Settle down and pull up your Snuggie, because it’s time for a story.
For those just joining us, You Rather is the internet’s largest game of “Would you rather?”. We made the first version of You Rather while still in school, launching October 1st, 2009 for no other reason than the date sounded good and imaginary deadlines give something to work towards. It was the first of many projects our team would work on together and holds a special place in our company history.
Earlier this month we were happily debating merits of teleportation when we received an email from Apple. It said that Spin Master, a company with a board game based on “would you rather” questions, had filed a complaint with Apple saying our You Rather apps infringed their “WOULD YOU RATHER..?” trademark. Soon after, we received a matching letter from Google. It was a true Christmas miracle.
To be clear, Spin Master doesn’t claim to have invented the game of “Would You Rather?” That’s a good thing, since it’s been around for far longer than they’ve been in business. Still, somehow they managed to acquire a trademark registration for “WOULD YOU RATHER..?”. So far, they’ve used it to make a board game. If you want to play would you rather offline, buying their game may be a great way to do it. The thing is we’re not a board game company, and “would you rather?” questions are bigger than a single medium.
Then things got legal
We reached out to their lawyer and after a couple weeks of back and forth (with some very ambiguous statements) we finally got their full list of demands, some of which are summarized below. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did:
- Stop using “You Rather” and any other phrases that are similar to “Would you rather”. This includes one (yes, really) or more of the words “Would”, “You”, or “Rather”.
- Hand over our yourather.com domain immediately
- Tell them how much money You Rather has made (presumably to ask for that too)
- Pay for their lawyers
- Attend a free no-obligation vacation for a hot new timeshare in Wyoming
At this point legally we should clarify that the last item is a joke, although at a certain level we wish they’d just gone the full gambit. Nowadays folks lack ambition, and we’re glad to see we’re not the only ones with big dreams.
In show of creativity our attorney described as highly unusual, their attorney was kind enough to provide alternate brand phrasing. The capitalized phrases below are his suggested replacements. We’ve attached our own marketing personas for easy reference:
Their Name Suggestions
- The “Mysterious Subject Matter” - “THIS OR THAT”
- The “Interrogator” - “YES OR NO”
- The “Make up your mind already” - “EITHER THIS OR THAT”
- The “Pokemaster” - “I CHOOSE”
- The “Young consumer appeal” - “DO YA WANNA”
Sneaky moves sir. Seems like Spin Master imagines a world where nobody says “Would You Rather” except when talking about their board game. Bad news for them, that ship has sailed. Either they have access to a Delorean, or something is seriously off here. Which ye select?
Originally Spin Master (as their lawyer indicated) might be willing to pay up to $500 for the domain transfer, higher than their current claimed record of $200 for a single domain. As much as we appreciated such a lucrative option, we’ve followed Rich Kids of Instagram enough to know it’s a slippery slope from domain name wealth to unsustainable jetsetter lifestyles.
Oh, and it’s also crazy. In the past few years yourather.com rose to the #1 result on Google for “would you rather”. Even if we accepted a name change as appropriate (we don’t), the domain represents what the game is - “Would you rather?” questions.
Finally, what baffled us most is the burning question of “Why Now?” We haven’t exactly been hiding in stealth mode on the front page of Google. Why wait four years before reach out? More importantly, why couldn’t we have discovered our hide and seek powers earlier!?
You Rather grew thanks to some good luck and great support from communities like Reddit, Tumblr, and Barstool. Today it sees tens of millions of pageviews per month. People record hours of YouTube videos debating site questions. It’s not unusual to spot strangers playing the app in public. One of our friends even met his girlfriend using a question as a pick up line.
Handing over yourather.com would kill more than four years of effort, community building and effectively shut down the project. Over a third of a billion responses have come from passionate communities all across the internet who have both featured and contributed to the site. A strong community is what makes You Rather go, and losing that along with “would you rather” phrasing is a nail in the coffin. This might be good news for people who want to find the nearest retailer of the “Would You Rather…?” board game but bad news for those of us who play the game together online.
Trademarks are important, but we think this one misses the point. There’s something wrong if a game of “Would you rather?” questions can’t use any of the words “Would”, “You”, or “Rather” to identify itself. Spin Master enforcing the trademark this way makes people afraid to call a popular game (which they didn’t invent) what it is. Worse still, their demands show similar issue with “Would you choose”, “Would you prefer” and other “Would you” alternatives out there. We’re lucky choosetheoptionpleasingtoonessensibilities.com is available… for now.
You Rather is the first product we made together. It supports a great conversation game and has a community we think is goddamn spectacular. One Mighty Roar may be the smaller company here, but we’re big enough to speak up when a bully comes onto the playground. We don’t know where this will go, but we know where it shouldn’t.
In an effort to protect ourselves, and hopefully others, last Saturday we filed a defensive lawsuit (called a Declaratory Judgment) asking the federal court in Boston to rule that we are not infringing Spin Master’s claimed trademark rights in the phrase “WOULD YOU RATHER…?”, and that “WOULD YOU RATHER…?” is descriptive and/or generic for, well, games of “Would you rather?” You can find that filing below.
Some questions have a right answer, and we think this is one of them.