It’s fair to say that people on the Internet have created memes about almost everything, and while a new meme trend emerges nearly every day, some have been around for a long time. What began as a meme about a fluffy dog with bad grammar has turned into a trademark battle over the ownership of a brand worth an estimated $90 billion. You are not alone if the progression of this Internet sensation has left your head spinning.
The term “Doge” comes from the Flash animation “Homestar Runner.” In a 2005 episode, Homestar Runner refers to another character as his “D-O-G-E.” Kabosu, a rescue dog adopted in 2008, rose to fame in 2010 when she was an energetic 5-year-old. Kabosu was featured on her owner’s blog, which included several photos of the Shiba Inu. Kabosu is lying on a couch with her little paws crossed and a worried expression on her face in one. From there, the Internet took over, adding the doge talk you’re familiar with in comic sans—”so concerned, much wow,” and so on. In the early 2010s, the photo circulated on sites like Tumblr and Reddit, and when a Reddit user coined the image of Kabosu as “Doge,” the name stuck, and the meme was born. Many iterations of the “Doge” meme—aptly named after the misspelling of “dog”—have since circulated the Internet, depicting the dog in various situations and expressing a typically comical inner monologue replete with contradictions, self-deprecating humour, or other pop-culture references, along with the now-famous “doge” style of grammatical errors.
Doge employs two-word phrases in which the first word is almost always one of five modifiers (“so,” “such,” “many,” “much,” or “very”), and the deviation from proper English is to use the modifier with a word that it cannot correctly modify. Several variations and spin-offs of the meme have been created since its inception. The ironic Doge memes have spawned a slew of other characters, many of whom are dogs themselves. Cheems, another Shiba Inu with a speech impediment that adds the letter “M” throughout its speech, is one of these. One popular meme in 2020 was “Swole Doge vs. Cheems,” in which a muscular Doge and a baby Cheems are depicted as something better in the past and its modern version, respectively.
Doge enters the Crypto Space
As if living in meme-infamy wasn’t enough, software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer developed a new crypto coin called “Dogecoin” as a joke in December 2013 to mock the wild speculation of other cryptocurrencies. Despite being designed to be worthless, Dogecoin was intended to be a P2P digital currency that would appeal to a much larger demographic than the much larger coin “Bitcoin”. When Dogecoin first entered the trading market, it was worth $0.00026 per coin, but in just 72 hours, its value had increased nearly 300 percent to $0.00095 per coin. While the coin’s value fluctuated over time, much like other cryptocurrencies, it skyrocketed in January and February of 2021 in response to encouraging tweets from Tesla billionaire Elon Musk. In just 24 hours, the coin grew by 800 percent and was worth $0.07 per coin. However, its incredible growth only lasted until the spring of 2021, when the cryptocurrency reached $0.45 per coin on April 16. At the time, the cryptocurrency that started as a joke was worth nearly $70 billion, making it the fifth-most valuable cryptocurrency. Dogecoin reached a high of $0.711 per coin in early May 2021, surpassing $90 billion.
With this massive increase in value has come a massive battle over who actually owns the “Dogecoin” brand and who has the exclusive rights to use it. As the owner of the cryptocurrency, Dogecoin’s creators established a Colorado non-profit in 2014 called the Dogecoin Foundation. However, they did not file an application with the Trademark Office for DOGECOIN until August 2021. Unfortunately for them, there were nearly a half-dozen other DOGECOIN trademark applications pending with the Trademark Office at the time, each of which is now vying for the exclusive use of the DOGECOIN trademark. A Dogecoin Foundation board member lamented that Dogecoin was always intended to be a joke, so they didn’t think it was worth registering with the USPTO back in 2014. Others, however, saw an opportunity to monetize the brand beyond cryptocurrency trading due to its meteoric rise. The question now is, who owns the trademark rights?
The iconic “Doge” meme broke the record for the most expensive meme nonfungible token (NFT), selling for more than $4 million at auction. The meme was auctioned off, and the winning bid was 1,696.9 Ethereum cryptocurrency, which is roughly $4 million. Atsuko Sato put the meme up for auction, and it ran for about three days before being sold to @pleasrdao.
On Zora, where Doge was being auctioned, a bidding war erupted between users @twodollahotdoge and @pleasrdao, driving up the price until @pleasrdao won with the winning bid. Other memes that compete with Doge include “Disaster Girl,” which sold for 180 Ethereum, or about $430,000, and “Overly Attached Girlfriend,” which sold for 200 Ethereum, or about $482,000 at the time. Also, the “Pepe the Frog” NFT sold for around $1 million recently. And many records seem to be tumbling daily on the NFT space.