The Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far.
The software amassed millions of users by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.
The original app was shut down by the developers after a few weeks, but the project was quickly picked up by others. This resulted in several popular forks that have each developed their own features, with most releasing their source code in public.
Recently, however, one developer made a move to formalize his claim on the Popcorn Time brand. An application for the trademark was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and this week the case was assigned to an examiner.
The proposed trademark describes Popcorn Time as follows: “Downloadable computer software used for streaming multimedia content images, videos and audio from peer to peer.”
The trademark application lists the Canadian developer David Lemarier who filed his application through Legalforce. While some are worried about the development, it appears that Lemarier doesn’t have any nefarious plans.
A source at the main fork Popcorntime.io familiar with the reasoning behind the trademark application told TF that it was filed as a defensive move.
“We strongly believe in the open contributions to the Popcorn Time project and the filing of the trademark wasn’t designed to hinder or prohibit the further development of the official Popcorn Time or any other related forks,” the source says.
“It’s wise to attempt to protect the trademark from ‘giants’ who might come along, sweep up the name, and then bully contributors into non-existence.”
The nature of the ‘giants’ the Popcorntime.io team are concerned about is left open.
Time4Popcorn, one of the popular forks, is not happy with the trademark application. They describes it as “rude” and stress that the Popcorn Time name doesn’t belong to anyone.
“This is news to us and we’re still figuring out how to respond to this, but this is rude and it is something we take very seriously,” the Time4Popcorn team notes.
“We assure you that we will never ever do something like this, and we will not let this happen that someone else will claim that it is their trademark. Never. An open source project is for everyone. It does not belong to us or to anyone else!”
Then again, even if someone with bad intentions did obtain the trademark, not much will change. Given the nature of the Popcorn Time application it is unlikely that any of the popular forks will shut down over a trademark dispute.