Activision resurrects Sierra thanks to good trademark practices

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I just read in Develop that Activision is bringing back its dormant Sierra publishing label.  For those who don’t know: Sierra was once a driving force in games development and publishing in the 1980s and 1990s but suffered a long decline into the 2000s, effect shutting down finally by the late Noughties.

This made me think two things: (1) that’s great news (I have warm feelings from back in the day about Sierra games); and (2) this is another example of how keeping a brand alive legally through its dormant phase means it can spring back to life in the future – as Sierra is now doing.

In particular, I’m thinking that the legal team (at Sierra, its previous owner Vivendi and then Activision) decided to keep Sierra as part of Activision’s trademark portfolio all these years, despite its decline.  That’s ofc good corporate legal practice, but if the Sierra trademark had been allowed to lapse, I strongly suspect that Activision would NOT now be bringing back to life this veteran publishing name in the games industry.  That”s because it would no longer have any exclusive control over ‘Sierra’ in relation to games and that means it could potentially be challenged, or even blocked  from reviving the Sierra games label altogether.  So, if there wasn’t Sierra trademarks still ongoing, there wouldn’t be a return of Sierra now. (more…)

Should virtual theft be treated like real world theft? A UK MP says yes.

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I couldn’t resist blogging quickly about this intriguing story, courtesy of The Guardian: a British MP wrote a formal question to the British government asking them to ensure that in-game theft be treated the same as real world theft.  Answer: nope (ish), but it does raise a real question which judges are already addressing… (more…)

EU regulation of free to play games: hot topic or hot air?

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The European Commission has just published a press release and report on the investigation into free to play games which it is coordinating within the European Union.  This follows my report back in February 2014 that the European Commission (one of the three legislative bodies in the EU and the prime policy maker) had decided to step into the increasingly thorny field of regulation of free to play games and in-app purchases in the online and mobile worlds.  Now the Commission has, seemingly out of the blue, issued a press release explaining what it has been up to all this time.

In this post I explain what’s going on and what’s REALLY important about the new guidance being issued to Apple and Google.  (more…)

Noriega v Activision: can a dictactor control his online image?

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News has broken that Manuel Noriega, the former military dictator of Panama, is suing Activision on the claim that his name and likeness is used as a supporting character in the latest game in the multi-billion dollar Call of Duty game series, Call of DutyBlack Ops 2.

In a nutshell: the game is set in the 1980s and includes Noriega as a supporting character involved in murder, betrayal and intrigue (the normal day job for any dictator, then).  It’s clear that Activision have strived for a realistic depiction of Noriega (as they have done for other historical characters by the way including John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and even Fidel Casto), but General Noriega wasn’t happy with that and has sued Activision, claiming essentially that they should have asked his permission and have profited from using his image and name without permission.  In essence, I suspect he wants to be paid a large sum of money from Activision. (more…)

The UK now has a video games tax break

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At long last, the EU has approved the UK’s video games tax break, a move which signals fundamental changes in the way that games are made in the UK, EU and beyond.  Personally, I’m very glad to be able to write that sentence; longtime readers will know I’ve been writing about the UK’s twists and turns on this matter since 2009!

You can expect to see lots more information and insight about the UK video games tax break on this site in the future.  For now though, here’s a quick guide to the UK video games tax break written by my colleague Paul Gardner and me together with UK interactive entertainment industry association Ukie. (more…)

European Commission consultation on free to play games and ‘free’ mobile apps: an initial analysis

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News broke today that the European Commission, one of three arms of the European Union, will be holding a consultation over the next two days regarding in-app purchases and free to play games and any mobile apps that call themselves ‘free’. This post is my initial analysis of this interesting (but not unexpected) development, which potentially bodes a future of big changes for this part of the mobile industry.

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Digital resale rights in the EU: the state of play

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What happens when you decide that you no longer want an e-book, film, tv episode, music track or video game which you bought and downloaded?  What happens if you decide you want to give it to a friend, relative or just someone who wants to buy it from you?  We’re in the middle of trying to find out the answer to that question.  It’s being argued out by consumers with businesses and it’s also now attracting the attention of the legal system. I thought my readers in the games and digital creative industries might like a practical summary on what’s been happening recently.  Here we go…

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Modchips now legal in the EU (as long as they’re not naughty)

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We now have some authoritative clarification about the legal status of modchips in the EU for the first time.  As longstanding readers of this blog will know, I’ve been writing about modchips for some time.  Here’s a quick recap of the latest position.

What are modchips?

Essentially, a modchip is a technology which permits you to circumvent restrictions which a device manufacturer builds into a device to limit your potential usage of the device.  These limitations are enforced by technology commonly called ‘technological protection measures’.  For example, a modchip might permit you to install software or to play games on a device which otherwise you wouldn’t be able to due to the technological protection measures installed by the device manufacturer on the device. (more…)

Some thoughts on game trademarks, King and Candy Crush

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This blog (and Gamer/Law generally) represents my personal views, not that of my employer.

The games press and sections of the games community has got hot under the collar (again) over trademark law.  This time around, it’s about news that King.com, maker of Candy Crush Saga and other games, is seeking to trademark ‘Candy’.  Cue lots of (to put it charitably) loose talk about ‘monopolies’ and even ‘patent trolling’.  I’m going to try and talk some sense about this topic. (more…)

20 Contract Questions: how do I change or renew my contract?

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Welcome again to my ongoing 20 Contract Questions series.  The most recent two posts were on learning about what a contract means and how to negotiate a contract.  In this post, we’ve now put the contract in place, but want to know more about changing or renewing it.

Let’s start by explaining why you need to know more about what’s seemingly an obviously answered question… (more…)