Similarly to other big industries, trademarks play a crucial role in the gaming industry. Recent reports about a dispute between 2 big players in the field, Activision and Warzone.com, re-raises the importance of trademark protection in gaming. In this short article, a trademark attorney from our firm will demonstrate just how important trademark protection is in this regard.
Decker & Ofir is an Israeli-based IP law firm. The firm specializes in trademark law and intellectual property (IP). The firm represents Israeli and international clients in IP legal proceedings. The services provided by the firm include assistance with handling trademark registration in Israel and abroad, portfolio management, legal representation in trademark and IP disputes, etc.
IP and Gaming: You Can’t (Afford to) Have One Without the Other
The gaming industry is an ever-developing field. New technologies enable video games to reach new platforms, like smartphones and VR. Technology further allows innovators to introduce new features into the industry. The recent case of GameStop short squeeze is a living proof of how relevant and lively the industry remains, despite the rapid changes in technology, piracy and other factors that change the gaming market in recent years.
The fields of gaming and intellectual property therefore go hand in hand. Since virtual games are in fact creative works, handling the aspects of copyright protection of games is crucial. In many cases, patents or designs protections may apply for additional features such as the gaming accessories, and even the gaming softwares. Yet, the issue of trademarks in the gaming world is at times being somewhat left aside. This can create various legal problems, as the recent dispute between Warzone.com and Activision can prove.
Who Owns the Warzone Trademark?
Warzone.com LLC is the owner of a popular strategy online game called “Warzone”. In 2017, Warzone.com filed a trademark application to the USPTO, in order to protect the game title. The trademark has since been registered. About a year ago, Activision Publishing, the creator of the well-known video game “Call of Duty”, filed 2 trademark applications, in order to register their latest version “Call of Duty: Warzone”.
Warzone.com opposed Activision’s trademark applications, claiming the marks applied for are confusingly similar to trademarks that are already registered under the category of video games. While the opposition proceeding is still ongoing, Activision is yet to file its statement of arguments in this regard.
However, in a lawsuit filed in parallel by Activision, the latter seeks a declarative judgement, according to which it does not infringe Warzone.com’s trademark. Activision argues for a lack of similarity between the marks, as Warzone.com’s games are only featured online, while “Call of Duty” is mainly made for gaming consoles (Playstation, Xbox, etc.). Interestingly, in order to fund its legal protection, Warzone.com currently raises money in crowdfunding.
Trademark Protection for Games: What Can We Learn from the Ongoing Dispute?
Trademarks can protect brands, logos, slogans and even characters that are associated with products and services. Online games and video games are products like any other product. Without an appropriate trademark protection of one’s brands legal disputes might be raised, as shown above. It is therefore very important for owners of video games and online games to register their game titles and brands before entering the market, if possible, in all the relevant territories and under the relevant classes. We explained about the registration process in this article.
There are 2 further notes in this regard. The first one is that apart from registering one’s brands properly, it is important to create distinction between the brand and the competitors. This can be done both by marketing activities of the brand’s owner and by conducting a proper search of existing similar brands.
The second note is that as trademark protection is generally territorial, it is extremely important to register the trademark in different territories, as we explained here. For the purpose of registration, it is highly recommended to get the assistance of an expert trademark attorney, in order to prevent undesired consequences and to minimize the likelihood of legal disputes.
If you have more questions about the legal aspects of trademarks and IP protection in gaming, you may contact us. A trademark expert from our firm will be happy to answer your questions. The law firm of Decker & Ofir is well experienced with representing clients in various trademark and IP matters, in Israel and abroad.