IP

A beginner’s guide to IP in games

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Hi everyone.  Earlier this week I went along to Dundee, Scotland for the Digital Spark conference and delivered a session on a beginner’s guide to IP in games.  I made a Prezi for the session and thought you might like to see it, so here it is: http://prezi.com/ynsvjg5hgpc6/a-beginners-guide-to-ip-in-games-jas-purewal-osborne-clarke/.

Please feel free to have a look over it and by all means drop me a line if you have any questions, would like to use it, think it’s good/bad/awesome/needs work etc.

Cheers,

Jas


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Demystifying copyright and games

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This post was originally published on GAMESbrief.

If you want to protect your games, you need to understand copyright law. It’s that simple. The problem is that many people get pretty hot under the collar about copyright law and think it does a lot more than it actually does. So, this post is about what copyright really is, what it does and what it doesn’t.

Before I get started though, it’s worth making a few initial points, since copyright in the games industry can be a pretty divisive subject:

  • This post is intended to summarise some key points about copyright law as it is, to help developers to understand where they stand legally. It isn’t about what the proper balance of copyright law should be between rewarding existing innovation and not discouraging new innovation.
  • This post isn’t about anti-piracy laws or UGC, though they do derive largely from copyright law. Those are posts for another day.
  • This post isn’t claiming that copyright infringement is any more or less of a risk for the games industry than it was back in the days of Pong. Personally, I think copyright infringement issues are on the rise, particularly in an era of mobile and casual games borrowing from established IP elsewhere in the industry (look at say Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. vs HALO or Desktop Dungeons vs League of Epic Heroes), but you can make your own mind up about that.

What is copyright?

Copyright law protects the rights of anyone who creates and/or owns a piece of work – such as a book, a film, a database or a computer program (I’ll call them “works”). To the right is an example of a random copyright work derived from one of my favourite games:

Copyright law is the main branch of IP law which protects creativity, as opposed to say trade mark law (more on that here), which is essentially about marketing your products, or patent law, which protects industrial innovation.

Five key points you need to know about copyright

(1) Copyright only gives you rights over the actual work you’ve created; it doesn’t give you a monopoly over the idea underlying the work.

This is critical: copyright law is meant to protect the fruit of your work, but it doesn’t stop people independently carrying out the same work and also enjoying legal protection of the fruit of that independent work. Legally, we say that copyright law protects the expression of an idea but not the idea itself.

Example: the fact that Nintendo owns copyright over the way that Mario looks and sounds does not give it a monopoly over all Italian plumber-themed games characters. If hypothetically Sega had entirely separately a similar Italian plumber for their own platformer back in the 80s, then Nintendo could not have objected to Sega using that work, or vice versa.

Therefore, it is entirely possible to have two very similar works both co-existing under copyright law, provided one has not substantially copied the other of course (more on that later).

(2) Copyright law gives you specific rights over your copyright work.

Essentially, you have the right to exploit the copyright work and stop others from exploiting/distributing it without your authorisation (the latter category starts straying into anti-piracy laws, which as I said is a post for another day).

These rights are valuable: you can buy/sell, leverage and license your or someone else’s copyrights. Licensing is key in the modern games industry: it is through licensing that a developer is able to make a game based on a copyright work owned by someone else (e.g. Bigpoint developed Battlestar Galactica Online or TT Games developed Lego Star Wars).

(3) A game will contain lots of different copyright elements at the same time.

For example, it could contain code, databases, pictures, films, sounds and written materials. Each of these elements is separately protectable by copyright law in different ways. This makes the copyright protection of games more difficult than, say, a book or a painting.

(4) Different countries have different copyright systems.

Example: in the UK copyright protection is automatic and there is no need to register the work. In the US, a work is not fully protected unless it is registered. (This might not sound that important, but in the recent past it’s caused real problems for Jagex, for example). Similarly, different countries have different defences to copyright infringement: the US has a wide ‘fair use’ defence, whereas the UK does not (not yet, anyway). Depending on the territories in which you operate, you may need to take specialist copyright advice (NB this post is based on UK law).

(5) Different copyright works last for different time periods.

When that time period expires, generally the work enters the public domain and becomes freely exploitable.

Example: copyright protection for a script lasts 70 years after the death of the author. However, for a film it is 70 years effectively after the death of the last of its creative team. Once that protection has expired, the work will in principle become freely exploitable in the public domain. (Here’s some food for thought: as a result, valuable IP will fall out of copyright protection in the first half of this century. For example, what happens when Mickey Mouse enters the public domain?)

Copyright infringement

As a broad summary:

  • If a developer takes an existing copyright work and copies “all or a substantial part” of it, and
  • That copying can be established factually,

Then that developer may in principle be liable for copyright infringement to the owner of the original copyright work.

So copyright infringement DOESN’T mean that if a developer bases a work on the same source or idea as your existing work, or even if his/her new work copies your existing work, that he/she is automatically infringing your copyright. There has to be copying of ‘all or a substantial part’ for there to be copyright infringement.

Copying of a ‘substantial part’ is a test of quality but also quantity: the developer could be liable for copyright infringement if he/she has copied very significant portions of your work or if he/she has copied one small but very significant part of that work.

BUT – there’s a catch. It has to be shown on the facts that the other guy has copied your work. This is done by a painstaking examination of the two copyright works next to each other in order to establish every similarity and dissimilarity between them. The judge will then take that analysis and decide whether he/she considers that there has been copying of “all or a substantial part” of the original work and therefore if there has been copyright infringement.

In practice, this can be a hard test to meet:

  • If the alleged infringer in fact did not even know about or see your work, then you’ll have no claim.
  • If the alleged infringer did know about your work, but you can’t prove that he/she had any access to it, then you’ll have difficult making a claim.
  • If the alleged infringer did know and have access to your work, then you may have a claim – but, as I said, you’ll need to show that there are sufficient similarities between the works for the judge to find copying of “all or a substantial part” of your work.

This is where it can get very murky indeed. I’m going to discuss the difficulties of establishing copyright infringement through two examples – one outside the games industry and one from within it.

Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail

Back in 1982, three authors wrote a controversial book entitled The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the central theory of which was that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that ‘the Holy Grail’ was both her womb and the resulting bloodline from that marriage. In 2003, Dan Brown’s best-selling The Da Vinci Code essentially turned the same theory into a novel.

Two of the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail then sued Brown and his publisher in 2006 for copyright infringement. The judge found that Brown had quite clearly recycled large parts of the “central theme” of their book when writing The Da Vinci Code. BUT the judge still ruled that there had been no copyright infringement, on the basis that there had not been copying of “all or a substantial part” of the actual contents of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Any similarities, the judge found, were at so high a level that it could not be shown that sufficient copying of the actual text of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail had occurred. Thus, Dan Brown, who quite clearly had taken his inspiration from someone else’s earlier work, was not liable for copyright infringement. (Incidentally, this case became infamous in legal circles because the judge incorporated his own code into his written judgment – seriously).

Let’s apply that in a games context. You create a game called Doom featuring innovative first person perspective action set on a future Mars against hordes of hostile aliens. A rival developer then creates a highly similar game called Gloom. Can you sue successfully for copyright infringement?

Answer: you will only succeed if you can show actual copying of the actual contents of your game – the artwork, sound, code etc. But it’s not enough for you to just argue that the other guy sat down in front of your game and thought “right, how can I make a game that looks and plays just like that?”

Let’s explore that further in the next example…

Nova Productions v Mazooma Games

Nova and Mazooma were both UK developers who created arcade machine games. Nova sued Mazooma and others, arguing that Mazooma’s games Jackpot Pool and Trick Shot infringed copyright in Nova’s game Pocket Money. All of them were pool-themed arcade machine games. BUT, Nova didn’t argue that Mazooma had actually copied Pocket Money’s underlying code. Instead, Nova argued that Mazooma had copied the user interface, or ‘look and feel’, of its game (you can see examples of the alleged similarities here). Nova also argued that Mazooma had copied key game mechanisms such as a cue aiming interface and power meter.

Nova lost the case, because it couldn’t show that there had been actual copying of its actual copyright works (e.g. the program code or its graphics) and it just wasn’t enough to show some similarities in the user interfaces of the games. (There’s more on the case here for those who are interested in the detail.)

This case shows us again that:

  • Copyright infringement depends on copying of ‘all or a substantial part’ of actual copyright works within a game – such as its code, graphics or sound;
  • You have to be able to show factual evidence of the copying; and
  • It’s not enough to point to superficial similarities or the ‘look and feel’ of the game – because that could just as easily have derived from the (unprotected) ideas which you yourself based your game on. Just because you develop a pool arcade game (or an FPS like Doom) first and then another guy makes a similar game, it doesn’t automatically entitle you to sue for copyright infringement.

It’s not all doom and gloom

A sceptic might be thinking at this point that there’s no point in having copyright protection. That’s not the case at all. Here’s some more positive points to think about:

  • Remember that copyright is a valuable asset in its own right, which can be bought/sold, licensed and leveraged. In fact, for games developers it is often their main asset.
  • Cpyright law goes hand in hand with trade mark law. You may not in some cases be able to stop a rival from poaching aspects of your game via copyright law, but you might be able to use trade mark law instead. You can read more about that here: Demystifying Trademarks and Games.
  • Dn’t take the above as the last word on copyright law and games. In fact, copyright law as it applies to games is not very well understood at the moment – would the same result in Nova v Mazooma happen if it was a popular narrative game rather than an essentially mechanical pool arcade game? There is I think scope for a more favourable interpretation of copyright law for the games industry in the future.

In the meantime, here’s some practical tips…

Top copyright tips for developers

  • Be realistic about how important copyright protection is to your business. What resources do you want to put towards it and in which territories? What can you do to read up on copyright law? (Tip: for the UK, have a look here for starters.)
  • Remember that copyright is a valuable asset in its own right, which can be bought/sold, licensed and leveraged.
  • If you have a dispute with another developer, think about what you want to achieve. Can you reach an amicable resolution with the other developer? Or are they actively trying to copy your product and take your customers such that a fight is inevitable? Can you use third parties, like Apple, to make your life easier via takedown requests? Can you enlist your player base or the games press to help? Have you had a word with a friendly games lawyer?
  • BUT, don’t just be guided by legal factors alone. Think about how much a legal fight would cost, how much time you have to devote to it, what your player base or partners would think of you. It may be that a negotiated settlement is better than an all out fight.
  • Don’t forget your safest bet is to make sure your games are better than your rivals’. Ultimately, only good products can grow your business and ensure your players stay with you rather than go to a rival.

Next month, to round off our IP fun over the last couple of months, I’ll be answering some frequently asked questions about IP law and games…

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Image credit: Valve Software

Demystifying Trade Marks and Games

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Trade marks are one of the most important ways to protect a game legally, but they are frequently misunderstood – as much through ignorance as anything else.  So, this post explains what trade marks are, what they do, when you can protect them and when you can’t.

Usual caveat applies: this post just signposts some of the key legal issues – if you actually have trade mark issues you need to talk about, let me know.

What is a trade mark?

Trade marks are signs (like logos or brand names) used so that customers can recognise your goods and services and distinguish them from the goods and services of your competitors.  Here’s an example:

 

 Trade marks are important to a business because they prevent competitors from confusing customers into thinking that they are buying products and services from a trusted, known source when in fact they’re not. In other words, they can be used to stop your rivals stealing your customers.

Example: You’re a developer and release a game called TrademarkVille, over which you register a trade mark. A rival developer then releases a very similar game called Trademark City. If customers purchase your rival’s game Trademark City because they wrongly conclude that you made it, or that it is actually your game TrademarkVille, then in principle you may have a trade mark infringement case.

Four key points you need to know about trade marks:

  • To be fully effective, they need to be registered. This is complex, so you should take legal advice to register and keep them.
  • If you operate internationally, you may need to get foreign trade mark protection too.
  • They can last indefinitely, but need to be renewed every 10 years.
  • Practically, trade marks are helpful in two situations: (1) you can sell/assign/leverage them; and (2) you can use them to stop trade mark infringement by a rival (aka ripping you off).

I’m going to explore this last point about trade mark infringement further today, because that is what often generates the most heat.

Trade mark infringement

As a broad summary:

  • If you use an identical or similar trade mark to sell identical or similar goods and services to a trade mark which has already been registered,
  • then you may be infringing that registered trade mark if your trade mark creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public (whether that confusion is mistaken or not).

So trade mark infringement DOESN’T just mean that if your trade mark is similar to another guy’s registered trade mark, then you are automatically infringing his trade mark (or vice versa). There would have to be that ‘likelihood of confusion’.  What happens in practice when one developer claims another has infringed his/her trade mark? To explain this, I’m going to look at two examples, with which I was personally acquainted, that generated some heat – Lima Sky and Edge Games.

Lima Sky and the ‘Doodle Jump’ trade mark

Lima Sky, developer of the hit mobile game Doodle Jump, registered a US trade mark for “Doodle Jump”. But soon after Doodle Jump became a huge hit, rival games with the word ‘Doodle’ in their title began to appear (a quick look at the iOS App Store shows such games as Doodle Hockey, D.O.O.D.L.E and – slightly worryingly – Doodle Dump, among many others). Lima Sky were not happy.

But things really exploded when (according to Igor Pusenjak, founder of Lima Sky) a rival applied for a US trade mark over the phrase ‘Doodle’. Lima Sky felt it had no choice but also to apply defensively for a trade mark over ‘Doodle’. On top of that, Lima Sky’s lawyers advised it to ask Apple to take down some of the Doodle type games on its App Store. All this caused just a bit of a ruckus (more on that later) and two of the questions levelled at Lima Sky were (i) ‘how can you claim you own the word “Doodle”’ and (ii) ‘how can you try to stop other Doodle type games?’

As to the first question, registering a trade mark doesn’t mean you own the word ‘Doodle’ or ‘Face’ or ‘Apple’ to do with as you please. It simply means that, provided you can meet the trade mark infringement test outlined above, you can use your registered trade mark to stop a rival ripping you off or even shutting you down.

As to the second question, actually I think there was some legal force in Lima Sky’s arguments:

  • The rival Doodle games were using a trade mark which is arguably ‘similar’ to Lima Sky’s (e.g. compare Doodle Hockey and Doodle Jump) for ‘similar goods and services’ (i.e. they are all casual mobile games sold on the iOS App Store).
  • There is at least some ‘likelihood of confusion on the part of the public’ because Doodle Jump is a massive hit on the App Store and customers may be fooled into thinking that a game with ‘Doodle’ in the title is either Doodle Jump itself or was at least made by Lima Sky.
  • Plus, once Lima Sky became aware of these rival Doodle games, if they didn’t try to stop them they ran the run of weakening or even losing their own trade mark.

(Obviously, that’s not to say that Lima Sky were definitely right, since trade mark cases are never this straightforward in reality.  However, in this case Lima Sky came in for a deal of criticism from the typically vocal games industry and, as a result, appear to have withdrawn at least some of their claims. Who ends up owning the ‘Doodle’ trade mark remains to be seen.

Edge Games and the ‘Edge’ trade mark

Tim Langdell probably needs no introduction to you. Over the last few years, he spent a lot of time and money attempting to shut down seemingly any and all uses of the phrase ‘Edge’ in the games industry – from the games magazine Edge to Mobigames’ game also called Edge. In 2010, Langdell sued EA over its game Mirror’s Edge. It didn’t work out well for him: he received a stinging verdict from a US court which found that, not only was there no likelihood of confusion between his Edge trade mark and EA’s, but Langdell had actively falsified the material which he used to obtain his trade mark in the first place. Cue public embarrassment and ridicule in the games industry, plus probably a hefty legal bill.

The moral of the story: just having a trade mark doesn’t mean you and you alone control anything to do with it. And if you take your claim all the way and lose, it can have serious consequences for your business. It also means it is vital to get your trade mark registered properly in the first place.

Top tips for developers

So, hopefully that has given you an idea about what trade marks are and how they work. To round this post off, here’s some top tips for developers:

  • Do your homework: when you’re designing your game, check to see if there are already released games with similar content/names/logos to your designs. You can do some of this yourself both on the Web and (in the UK) using the IPO database here, or…
  • Have a word with a friendly games lawyer: a little legal advice early on can save a lot of time and money later, especially since the process of registering and defending trade marks is complex. 
  • If you have a problem with another developer misusing your trade mark (or vice versa), you must act, but think carefully first. Is the other developer just making an innocent mistake which you can talk through with them? Or are they actively trying to copy your product and take your customers such that a fight is inevitable? Can you use third parties, like Apple, to make your life easier via takedown requests? Can you enlist your player base or the games press to help?
  • BUT, don’t just be guided by legal factors alone. Think about how much a legal fight would cost, how much time you have to devote to it, what your player base or partners would think of you. It may be a result that a negotiated settlement is better than an all out fight.
  • Don’t forget your safest bet is to make sure your games are better than your rivals’. The legal steps outlined above can be a defence to attacks against your business, but only good products can grow your business and ensure your player stay with you rather than go to a rival.

One last thing: where one game copies another, it usually raises issues of copyright as well as trade mark law. So, next month, I’ll be writing about demystifying copyright and games…

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Opinion: why PopCap had to say yes to Blizzard

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Last month, news emerged that Blizzard will introduce an homage to Popcap’s hit game Plants vs Zombies in the forthcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm.   Apparently there will be a Plants v Zombies themed quest chain in the game, including the ability to…well, fight zombies with plants.  It seems that Popcap had collaborated closely with Blizzard on the project.

All well and good.  But this got me thinking: what if hypothetically it had been reported that PopCap had known nothing of Blizzard’s plans and was unhappy with them?  What could Popcap have done then, legally?

My view is this: if Blizzard did it right, then PopCap couldn’t have done much legally – and I’ll explain why in this post. 

But first, a couple of caveats.  One: this is not a complete legal analysis – it is an opinion piece, in which I take you through my views of the key legal issues that would be encountered (though if you do want a careful legal analysis about these kinds of issues, let me know!)  Two: this is not intended to cast any aspersions on Blizzard or PopCap – I’m just using a convenient recent example to discuss the limitations of copyright and trademark law as regards gamesThere is a tendency sometimes to think that, just because someone has copyright and trademark protection in their games, that somehow that makes them invulnerable to copying etc.  Not at all – as I’ll show you.

The basics

These are real basics: a game is really just a bundle of different components : images, audio, video, code, databases etc.  Virtually all those components are intellectual property (i.e. intangible stuff you can own, as opposed to tangible stuff you can own – such as a house) and therefore protected by intellectual property law.  The games components outlined above will usually be protected by a branch of IP law called the law of copyright (more on that below).  Told you it was the real basics…

Separately, your name, the name of the game and the names of some its key features (e.g. its characters) can potentially be protected by trademark law.  For example, Nintendo and Super Mario are trademarked terms (again, more on that below).

In addition, there can be a whole bunch of other intellectual property rights in or around your game – e.g. rights in databases forming part of the game or in its packaging or ‘get up’.  For the purpose of this post, they’re not as relevant so I won’t discuss them.

The copyright bit

As I said much of the game components, like audio and graphics, will be protected by copyright law.  But really that just protects the actual images you’ve drawn or audio you’ve actually recorded.  Copyright law does not give you a monopoly over every other kind of similar image or audio. 

Example: if Alan draws a picture of a fat grey zombie attacking a plant, then he can’t stop Bob entirely separately drawing and selling another image of a fat grey zombie attacking a plant.  This is a critical principle of copyright law: it protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.  Two people drawing that picture entirely separately have just drawn on a common idea, so neither of them has the right to stop the other from drawing or exploiting their picture.    Copyright law does this in order to strike a balance between rewarding hard work and protecting intellectual liberty.

Ah, you say, but what about if Alan saw Bob’s picture first?  That’s where it gets tricky.  If Alan can prove that Bob had access to his picture, and can prove that Bob made a replica picture that copies all or (to use some legalese) a “substantial part” of Alan’s picture, then in principle Alan could sue Bob for copyright infringement on the basis that Bob’s inspiration was Alan’s picture, not the abstract idea of a fat grey zombie attacking a plant.

BUT, suing for copyright infringement is not as easy as just looking at the two pictures.  Judges have to look very closely at every aspect of the two copyright works, comparing and contrasting every part of them in order to reach to a decision as to whether there are enough detailed points of similarity to justify a finding of copyright infringement.  This is a very, very hard test to meet.  On top of that, it is often hard to prove that the person who made the alleged replica work actually had access to, and copied, your copyright work.  All lawsuits ultimately involve a degree of chance, but copyright lawsuits often  go beyond that.

What about if there are no obvious technical examples of copying but there is overall a very similar ‘look and feel’ to the two works?  For example, what if there are two GUIs or menus that are not exactly the same but overall give the same or similar effect – could there be copyright infringement there?  Answer: it is going to be very, very hard under UK (and US for that matter) law to prove that someone has copied your game or any other copyright work just based on a similar ‘look and feel’. 

A good example of how hard all this is to prove is the Da Vinci Code case (aka Baigent and Leigh v Random House).  Two authors claimed that Dan Brown had plagiarised their book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, when writing his massive hit The Da Vinci Code.  Brown quite clearly had taken a huge amount of inspiration and plot details from their book, but he was not found liable for copyright infringement because he hadn’t actually copied any text from Baigent’s and Leigh’s book.  There were not enough painstaking points of similarity between the two books, and any general similarities or ‘look and feel’ were not sufficient, to find Brown liable for copyright.

Another example:  Navitaire Inc v easyJet.  Navitaire had developed an airline booking system, which easyJet instructed software engineers to replicate down to the last detail, partly by reverse-engineering it through repeated use of the system.  Navitaire tried to sue for copyright infringement and failed because, even though easyJet it couldn’t show that the relevant copyright works had technically been copied in the word-for-word sense and its ‘look and feel’ argument failed.

That key point again: it’s actually quite hard to prove copyright infringement regarding software, including games.  Ever wonder why (naming no names) some social games look, sound and and have names remarkably similar to each other?  It’s partly because the above shows how hard a lawsuit over any alleged copying would be.


So that’s all very nice and academic, but what does it mean for PopCap and Blizzard?  Here’s my view:
  • Popcap will (unless it has assigned it to someone else) own the copyright in all the visual, audio, video, code etc in Plants vs Zombies
  • But that does not give Popcap a monopoly over the idea of a cartoony tower defence game in which the player builds plants to fight off zombies
  • Nor does it give Popcap a monopoly over the ‘look and feel’ of that kind of game
  • Done correctly, Blizzard could quite properly look at Plant v Zombies and – without actually copying any of the copyright works in that game – make its own version which looked very similar and played very similar
  • In other words, if Blizzard had decided to include a game-mode very like Plants v Zombies in its game, and did it correctly, I think Popcap would have great difficulty in arguing copyright infringement against Blizzard
Of course, there’s a BUT here.  None of this means that you have a licence to rip someone else’s game off without regard to copyright law, firstly because that’s just a bad thing to do but secondly because there’s nothing to stop the copyright owner commencing litigation against you anyway (even if the prospects of success are actually against it).

The trademark bit

So, copyright wouldn’t help (I think).  How about trademark?  Answer: I don’t think so, not if Blizzard was savvy.

Again, another bit of legal 101 first.  Trademarks are intended to give legal protection to the financial value of the name of your company and product, because otherwise it is very tempting to put together a similar product with a similar name and piggyback on someone else’s successful product.  This often comes up in cybersquatting cases, when a shady character sets up a website very similar in name to a popular website and tries to profit from misdirects (for example, Facebook recently successfully went after and shut down Facebok.com).  So, both ‘Popcap’ and ‘Plants v Zombies’ are (or should be) trademarked. 

The basic test for trademark infringement is fairly simple: if you use deliberately in your trade a name which is similar to a name trademarked by someone else and this is likely to cause consumer confusion between your name and the trademarked name, in principle you can be liable for trademark infringement to the trademark owner.

The solution is simple: use a name which won’t cause consumer confusion.  So, if Blizzard was to use a name sufficiently similar to Plants v Zombies to cause consumer confusion (e.g. ‘Zombies v Plants’) then in principle it would be liable for trademark infringement.  But what if Blizzard used a name like “Botanical Mayhem” or something? 

My answer: far less chance of  succesful legal complaint from PopCap, probably.  So Blizzard could take their own type of plant/zombie tower defence game, give it a non-trademark infringing name, and off they go.

Practical points coming out of this little thought experiment:
  • Having copyright and trademark protection for your game is helpful, but it doesn’t necessarily make it invulnerable to being copied/ripped off
  • Copyright protection isn’t going to be a complete shield if someone is determined to exploit your game cleverly
  • Trademarks won’t help you either if they deliberately call the game something else which is sufficiently different so that it wouldn’t cause consumer confusion
  • BUT, litigation isn’t just about winning a lawsuit when you’re absolutely right, it’s also about applying commercial pressure to the other side – so you shouldn’t necessarily be swayed by just these legal arguments
  • And don’t take of this as a licence to go ripping someone else off – obviously, it’s never a good idea to do that

Image credit: PopCap Games/Wikimedia

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Can you feature David Cameron in a video game legally?

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Yes probably, is the answer.  Read on for my explanation…
Kotaku has written a piece on The Politics of Presidential Appearences in Video Games, triggered by President Obama’s appearance in Madden NFL 11.  Which has got me thinking: could UK Prime Minister David Cameron object to be included in a video game?
The legal bit:
The US has a well-developed legal principle called the ‘right of publicity’ or ‘personality right’ which is essentially the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his/her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of his/her identity.  Using this right, a celebrity can object to his likeness appearing in any form of media (including games) unless the author seeks prior authorisation – for which the celebrity will almost certainly charge a licence fee.
The right of publicity is a complex and fast-evolving area of law which is increasingly becoming relevant to games, particularly sports games.  So, for example, Cnet reported in August 2010 that a class action lawsuit has been commenced by approximately 6,000 NFL players against EA over allegations that their likenesses appear without prior authorisation in Madden games.
Consequently, President Obama could under US law in theory take legal action over his likeness appearing without prior authorisation in a video game.  Of course, there’s a big question over whether he would want to do that though (and see more on that in the Kotaku piece).
What the UK says:
There is no equivalent right of publicity under English law.  The courts have considered (and are still considering) the matter through case law but so far their approach has been that individuals do not need a right of publicity (if they feel sufficiently strongly about an unauthorised use of their likeness, they can rely upon other legal remedies such as passing off, but the application of such remedies to celebrity publicity cases is untested as far as I know).  Or, I suppose, he could potentially rely upon defamation law if the effect of including him in a game was defamatory.
So, I think that – unless he wanted to try some clever legal arguments like passing off or defamation – Prime Minister Cameron probably couldn’t sue if his appearance appeared in a game. 
Although, obviously don’t take my word for it – there’s nothing to stop him (or any other UK-based celebrity for that matter) trying…!

The big question is not so much whether a UK celebrity can or cannot stop his likeness being commercialised without authorisation, but whether he should be able to stop it.  This is something a lot of legal commentators have been looking at – what do you think readers?

Image credit: Daily Mail (shudder)
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Games and the Digital Economy Act: an Update

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Earlier this year I wrote about the impact UK Digital Economy Act, which was passed by the Labout government earlier this year, and the impact the Digital Economy Act will have on games once it comes fully into force.  Now that has taken a step closer.  Read on for more… 
So what’s going on?
The Digital Economy Act is (among other things) a big change to UK law on copyright infringement, because it mandates a new system in which rights holders (e.g. developers and publishers) cooperate with ISPs to locate, identify and take legal action against copyright infringers, such as people who download pirated games.  The most (in)famous aspect of the system is the threat that rights holders and ISPs would together be able to use ‘technical measures’ against infringers’ internet access, i.e. to throttle down or even cut off their internet access (although in the event this was toned down and now the Government effectively has the power to give those powers to Ofcom if it feels it necessary once DEA is fully in force).  Against a spirited resistance from a number of angles, the Labout government passed the DEA in its last days and left it to the UK telecoms regulatory body, Ofcom, and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Skills (BIS) to put together codes of practice/ that will actually govern how DEA would work (you can read the DEA itself here).
Now Ofcom/BIS are taking serious steps towards setting up that framework in which DEA will work.  Earlier this year Ofcom released a draft code of practice (which you can see here) and now BIS has released guidance on one of the most important/contentious issues: who is going to buy for all this anti-piracy action?
Over to Technollama, who gives a good summary of the key points:
  • The notification costs of ISPs and Ofcom as regulator are to be split 75:25 between copyright owners and ISPs
  • There should be no fee for subscribers to appeal against a notification letter. However the Government retains the power to introduce one at a later date should it become clear that a large number of vexatious appeals result.
  • The deadline for Ofcom to complete the initial obligations code will be extended by 3 months to reflect the need to notify the cost regulation separately under the Technical Standards Directive.”
So rights holders will have to stump up 75% of the costs, ISPs have to stump up 25%, and consumers pay nothing.  Which will be not enough for the rights holders, too much for ISPs and just about right for consumers (though they don’t really want the DEA anyway).  And we’re probably going to be talking about a fair deal of money here – it’s not cheap to locate, identify (through a Court process) and then sue illegal downloaders.

Oh and, as importantly, Ofcom is given another bit more time in which to finalise the actual legal framework in which DEA will have to operate.

What does this mean for games?
For the games industry, fundamentally the position remains the same: once DEA is fully operational (a gold star to anyone who spots the film quote there), it will become a powerful weapon for all rights holders – including developers and publishers – to use against content piracyNow we know that, if developers and publishers want to use that weapon, they will not only have to to identify and pursue the pirates (in accordance with the rules that Ofcom hasn’t finalised yet), they will have to pay 75% of the costs as well.  Whether that operates as a brake on using the DEA powers against games pirates, well, we’ll have to see.
One other point which I keep making, that we don’t know the answer to yet, is whether DEA can/should apply to ‘innocent’ copyright infringement, in particular fan mods or games UGC.  I think legally it does apply to that kind of content, but will devs/publishers actually use the DEA to take action against that kind of content?  Really that’s the classic question about third-party content: yes, on the one hand it acts as a homage to your game and can even drive traffic etc, but on the other hand it is content which is outside your creative, legal and financial control.  We’ll have to see.
As and when there are further developments (probably when Ofcom releases the next draft or the final code of practice), I’ll write another update. 
[image author: Andrew Dunn, obtained via Wikipedia]
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Take Two loses battle over Bioshock.com

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What happens if you go to www.Bioshock.com?  You don’t get a website dedicated to the Bioshock series of games, that’s what.  And now you still won’t in the future…
…because Take-Two Interactive, publisher of the Bioshock series, has lost an attempt to obtain www.bioshock.com from a professional domain name purchaser known as Name Administration Inc.
Name Administration (aka NA Media), a Cayman Islands company, acquired Bioshock.com in December 2004, a few months after rumours of Bioshock 1 began to circulate in October 2004.  Earlier this year, Take-Two instructed lawyers to seek to have the website transferred to it and away from Name Administration.  This led to arbitration proceedings before the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in May 2010 (the WIPO being for present purposes a body which adjudicates on disputes over ownership of websites).  The Panel’s judgment has just been released – read on for a summary…
The legal bit
In a nutshell, in order to have Bioshock.com transferred to it, Take-Two had to demonstrate that:
(i) that the Bioshock website registered by Name Administration is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or a service in which Take-Two has rights; and
(ii) that Name Administration has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Bioshock website; and
(iii) that the Bioshock website has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
 
Take-Two’s arguments
  • As you would expect, Take-Two’s principal argument was that “the only reason for [Name Administration’s] use of the Domain Name is to trade off the value and goodwill of [Take-Two’s] Bioshock trademark by diverting users to third-party commercial websites for profit.”  The trademarks in question had been registered by Take-Two in 2005, some time after Bioshock 1 was announced. 
  • Take-Two also argued that Name Administration had been found to have cyber-squatted a number of other websites in the past.  For example, Take-Two said that Name Administration had also acquired the website taketwointeractive.com! (Although in fairness, that site was given to Take-Two on request).
Name Administation’s arguments
  • Name Administation pointed out that it had acquired the Bioshock.com website substantially prior to Take-Two acquiring any Bioshock trademarks (which weakened Take-Two’s argument that the cyber-squatting of the website infringed their trademarks, if those trademarks in fact had been acquired after the cyber-squatting began).
  • Name Administration also argued that the name ‘Bioshock’ was not exclusive to Take-Two or to a gaming context, as it is also meaningful and used in a pharmaceutical and scientific research context (in fact, Bioshock.com itself shows pharmaceutical adverts).  In that regard, the WIPO panel noted for example that “the company Johnson & Johnson…had expressed interest in [Bioshock.com] in view of its trademark application for BIOSHOCK in connection with hand and skin cleanser [but this was] ultimately abandoned by the company in 2007“.  (You can only imagine what might have happened if Johnson & Johnson, maker of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, had released a ‘Bioshock skin cleanser…)
  • Finally, Name Administation argued that it “could not be aware of the blog chatter in October 2004 and of the announcement in late 2004 which are alleged by [Take-Two] to be the basis for the timing of the domain name registration. [Name Administration[ specifies that [Take-Two’s] announcement, in the form of an interview with the game designer who stated that he was developing a successor to a game published by “Irrational Gaming” which he intended to call “Bioshock”, was not associated with [Take-Two] until 2005“.  In other words, there was no link between Bioshock 1 and Name Administration acquiring Bioshock.com.
The Panel’s findings 
The Panel found that the Bioshock website was “identical” to Take-Two’s Bioshock trademarks.  This satisfied test (i) above.  (I must admit I don’t quite follow the Panel’s very terse logic here, given their findings on bad faith summarised below, but never mind).
But Take-Two fell down on test (iii), i.e. proving that “that the Bioshock website has been registered and is being used in bad faith.”  The Panel held that (a) the fact that the website had come before the trademarks, (b) there was no association of Take-Two with Bioshock until 2005 and (c) in any event Bioshock.com was associated with fields other than video games, meant that “[Take-Two] has failed to prove that [Bioshock.com] was registered and used in bad faith“.
In conclusion, the Panel declined to award ownership of Bioshock.com to Take-Two, meaning presumably it has to make do with http://www.bioshockgame.com/ instead.  A quick look at other Bioshock websites yields a mixed bag: Bioshock2.com is clearly being cyber-squatted, whereas BioshockInfinite.com is being used by Irrational Games so that’s ok.
Thoughts
  • This case illustrates a simple lesson: when you are designing a game or other product, register all the related websites as soon as possible and keep them renewed.  It’s very surprising that Take-Two didn’t do that, but I suppose stranger things have happened.
  • You should seek legal advice on how to protect your IP (particularly trademarks) as soon as possibleIn this case, Take-Two apparently did not apply to register the Bioshock trademarks until quite some time after the game began to be discussed/designed, which helped to cost them in this case.
  • Just because a website has the same name as your game, it doesn’t mean it should or will automatically belong to you.  In this case, Take-Two lost in part because Bioshock.com had scientific as well as gaming uses.

Thanks to Out-Law for the original spot.

Image credit: Take-Two/Fanpop

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Blizzard wins $88m lawsuit against WoW private server owner

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Blizzard Entertainment has just won a substantial lawsuit against WoW private server provider Scapegaming, including a crippling award of $88 million in damages. Read on for more on WoW private servers and this case.
What was Scapegaming?
Scapegaming was a WoW private server, which permitted players to play a modified version of WoW that was not under Blizzard’s control and for which players would pay the private server provider rather than WoW. For example, it seems that Scapegaming even featured a (real money) microtransactions system, which obviously WoW does not.  Vanilla WoW is just fine for me for me (my 80 Horde DK is doing ok thanks), but I can imagine that some gamers may find attractive the idea of playing a different, non-sanctioned version of WoW.
Private servers inhabit a pretty murky world (more on them below) and so not much is known about Scapegaming. However, from some investigation it seems clear that Scapegaming is/was one of a number of interconnected WoW private servers, who enjoy apparently quite substantial player bases.  For example, you can have a look at this Youtube video for some rather mysterious allegations about the various figures behind Scapegaming and its rivals.  One thing that does seem clear is that some point Scapegaming was shut down, though whether this was as a result of this lawsuit or other factors is unclear.

So, a bit about private servers
As I said, private servers permit players to play WoW without Blizzard’s supervision and which therefore gives them the ability to manipulate the game to an extent impossible in the official servers. BUT, private servers without the dev’s consent are quite clearly illegal. Why? Because if you reverse-engineer and make available to the public a modified version of someone else’s game without his/her consent, you are committing a range of IP infringements, particularly copyright and trademark infringement. Moreover, both making and using a private server would involve breach of the WoW terms and conditions, entitling Blizzard in principle to shut down WoW game accounts of both the private server providers and their users. In fact, if such servers are provided to the public for profit, then under many jurisdictions this could potentially be a criminal as well as a civil matter for the server providers. Beyond that, private servers cause commercial and creative problems for the dev because they are outside of his revenue stream or his creative control. In other words, they are pretty much always going to be BAD NEWS for developers.
Blizzard itself is certainly alive to the dangers posed by private servers. In around 2002, it took legal action against the owners of Bnetd, a reverse-engineered clone of Battle.net and therefore in effect a private server itself (you can read more on that here) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bnetd. Beyond that, Blizzard has taken legal action on a number of other occasions when third parties have attempted to introduce changes to WoW without its consent (see for example the WowGlider litigation).

So, at this point, let’s have a quick look at what we know of the Scapegaming case.

The case
In early 2010, Blizzard commenced the legal action in a Californian court directly against Alison Rees, apparently the owner/manager of Scapegaming. The details of Blizzard’s exact complaint were, as usual, set out in a formal Compaint (known as Particulars of Claim in England) – but unfortunately I don’t have access to it (yet). Still, one would expect that it gave set out the IP/contract arguments against Rees.
Then, it seems from the court record, Rees did…nothing. As seems often to be the case in clear IP infringement cases of this kind, Rees ing appears to have chosen not to respond to the lawsuit at all. As a result, it seems that Blizzard became entitled to default judgment (this is a legal procedure in which, if you start a lawsuit and the other side doesn’t respond within the requisite reply period, then you automatically ‘win’ the lawsuit because of the other side’s failure to engage in the process).
At which point the lawsuit seems to take another non-twist, because then Blizzard’s lawyers appear to have done nothing either. The lawsuit history is skimpy on detail and therefore difficult to follow at this point, but it seems that the court took a pretty dim view of this and therefore proposed to dismiss Blizzard’s lawsuit altogether because Blizzard had failed actually to ask for default judgment against Rees. Anyway, after a court hearing on the issues, the court (apparently quite begrudgingly) gave Blizzard a short period in which actually to seek default judgment, which it then did in mid June 2010. This then rolled on for some time until, in early August, the judge ruled that:
Based on Plaintiffs evidentiary submissions, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is entitled to default judgment in the amount of $3,052,339 in disgorged profits, $85,478,600 in statutory damages, and $63,600 in attorneys fees…Plaintiff Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. shall recover $88,594,539.00, and post-judgment interest thereon at the rate provided by law until paid in full, from Defendant Alyson Reeves, d/b/aScapegaming.
Let’s just pick the numbers apart for a moment. Blizzard is to recover $3m in “disgorged profits“, meaning that it was able to convince the court that Rees herself had made over $3m in profits from Scapegaming. That’s a serious amount of dough to earn from a private server. Then we have $85m in “statutory damages”, which is the amount awarded by the court to compensate Blizzard for the estimated loss caused by the IP infringements. Clearly this makes up the bulk of the award and is pretty nuclear all on its own (though NB that the amount of statutory damages awarded are often a target for an appeal later on). Finally, we have $63,600 in legal costs.
So what?
$88m in damages is a pretty crippling blow to bring against an individual and I would guess that, unless Rees is a wealthy individual living in the US (or she manages to win an appeal against that award – seems unlikely), then actually recovering anything like that sum of money may be difficult. However, the sheer size of the damages award certainly should send a clear message to other WoW private server providers (particularly any of those who have moved in on Scapegaming’s territory since the lawsuit began).
Which leads us to the last point for this post. What this case shows most strongly is that Blizzard views private servers as a sufficiently significant problem to merit lawsuits – particularly if other private server providers are earning anything like the $3m that Rees made from Scapegaming. Couple that with the fact that there are clearly other private server providers out there, and it suggests we will see more of this kind of action from Blizzard in the future. Watch this space…

Image credit: Activision-Blizzard/Wikimedia

Nintendo v Playables – the latest modchip case considered

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It seems that Nintendo is on a mission to gun down modchip sellers at the moment. I posted in May 2010 that Nintendo was suing New York-based modchip seller NXP Games, Inc. The 1709 Blog has just reported that Nintendo has successfully just sued another modchip seller in Holland. And, last week, Nintendo won a UK High Court claim against modchip seller. This post is about the UK decision.

Here’s a quick summary:

Nintendo v Playables, the UK High Court decision on modchips delivered last week, was not a groundbreaking decision. It simply reinforces the fact that previous caselaw has already found that the sale and distribution of modchips breaches UK copyright laws and is therefore illegal. So, this decision did not make modchips illegal for the first time under UK law.  It is still an important decision, however, because it forms part of a continuing move in the US/UK towards outlawing modchips altogether – an approach which is not shared in certain other countries, particularly in Europe (more on that at the end of this post).

So, now read on the clever(ish) legal analysis. Oh, and for more background on modchips you can read my previous post ‘Are Modchips Illegal?’

The story

Nintendo manufactures and sells its handheld Nintendo DS among other consoles. Playables, a UK company, imported and sold devices which when connected to a Nintendo DS could be used to play pirated games (either using inbuilt memory or through inserting memory cards into the device). In other words, Playables sold modchips.

HM Revenue & Customs and Trading Standards seized about 165,000 of these modchips en route to Playables, which led to Nintendo finding out about them and deciding to commence High Court proceedings against Playables and one of its directors. As it turned out, prior to trial Nintendo agreed a partial settlement with Playables (the terms of which are unknown and no doubt secret) but nonetheless sought summary judgment of the case to court in order to obtain legal vindication of its position.

Fundamentally, Nintendo argued that the modchips infringed its copyright in: (i) the source code for the boot up software; (ii) the Nintendo Logo Data File (which assist the DS to run); (iii) the Nintendo ‘Racetrack’ logo. In legal terms, the arguments being run were:


(i) circumvention of ‘Effective Technical Measures’ (essentially, they deliberately circumvented technology put in place by Nintendo to stop copyright infringement); and


(ii) pure copyright infringement.


More on that below.


The ETM argument


This is where we get a bit legal. Nintendo relied upon two provisions in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the “CDPA”), section 296 and section 296 ZD.


Section 296 prohibits anti-circumvention devices that have been applied to computer programs. To establish a breach of this provision, Nintendo had to prove that: 

  1. there was a “technical device” which had been applied to a computer program; and
  2. that the defendants had manufactured it/sold it etc for the sole purpose of the unauthorised removal or circumvention of the technical device.

In addition, for one of these sections Nintendo also have to prove that the defendants actually knew or had reason to believe the technical device would be used to make infringing copies.


Nintendo easily could prove Test (1), since the modchips physically are inserted into the Nintendo DS and can then be used to run pirated games etc.


As to Tests (2) and (3), Playables advanced the same arguments that pretty much all modchip sellers have advanced in these cases:

  • modchips are not just sold for circumvention purposes but can have legitimate uses, e.g. if you wanted to play your own game on the console; and
  • the modchip sellers don’t know that their devices would be used by people to make/use pirate games.

In the UK, these arguments had already been put forward (and failed) in several cases, in particular one called Sony v Ball and separately in R v Gilham (more on that below). Here, again, the judge gave these arguments pretty short shrift. He said “I do not think that the defendants have a realistic prospect of asserting that they did not know of the unlawful uses to which the devices would be put” and that Playbles had “no realistic prospect of success” in arguing the modchips were for legitimate purposes.


The Jurisdiction angle


One interesting/new question which came up during this part of the case was what happens when a modchip seller is exporting modchips outside the UK as well as selling them within the UK. Does just exporting modchips outside the UK fall foul of the CDPA as well?


Mr Justice Floyd said yes, it does. He said that one of the CDPA sections being relied on, s296 ZD, is concerned with dealings in the UK in devices capable of circumvention. Nintendo did not need to prove actual circumvention.


So what? Answer: on this reasoning, if in the future a modchip seller was to import modchips into the UK and then export them out (e.g. to Europe), that would be illegal even if the modchip is not actually sold/used in the UK. It also means that the claimant (in this case, Nintendo) could seek greater financial damages.


The copyright argument


As I said above, as well as an ETM argument, Nintendo also brought a plain old vanilla copyright argument, based on the DS source code, the NLDF and Nintendo’s logo (well, actually, Nintendo’s argument was that Playables should be liable for copyright infringement because its device authorised others to infringe Nintendo’s copyright, most likely because it would be hard to prove that Playables itself had actually infringed Nintendo’s copyright).  These arguments met with more limited success: Nintendo only won on the NLDF authorisation point.


The court’s judgment


We already know that Nintendo/Playables itself had settled but Nintendo wanted a judgment in its favour. So, it went off seeking summary judgment from Mr Justice Floyd, who found in its favour on the ETM argument and partially in its favour on the copyright argument. The Judge also found there was enough evidence to find Mr Chan, the Playables director, jointly liable with Playables.


Also, just to emphasise, the court’s judgment was directed at whether Playables had in fact breaches the relevant sections of the CDPA.  This case did not seek to establish as a general principle that modchips are illegal, as that had already effectively been achieved by a combination of the CDPA provisions and previous caselaw.  Obviously though this case will act as further precedent to be used in any subsequent cases against modchip sellers in the UK.


Analysis


As I said, this was not a groundbreaking decision, but it does have some interesting aspects:

  • It forms part of the continuing trend in the US/UK towards outlawing modchips altogether, by finding that they have no legitimate purpose other than to facilitate copyright infringement/games piracy. For example, the case follows hot on the recent UK criminal case of R v Gilham, in which a modchip seller was convicted of offences relating to his sale of modchips (you can read my thoughts on that case here).
  • It contrasts with the view on some other countries that in fact modchips can be used for legitimate purposes and that the games companies should not have ‘their own way’ of controlling the consoles in the way they want, rather than what consumers want. For example, you read here about recent modchip decisions in France and Spain which moved in that direction.
  • It shows that the directors and employees of modchip sellers can be personally liable, not just the company. Here, Mr Chan was found financially liable as well as Playables. In Gilham, Mr Gilham himself was prosecuted and convicted. This is must be a serious deterrant factor, but…
  • The fact that the case was taken all the way to judgment shows that the console manufacturers clearly do still regard modchips as a serious concern, so deterrants are needed.
  • HMRC were involved. We don’t know exactly how, but clearly there was (and has been for some time) cooperation between HMRC and the console manufacturers to tackle copyright infringement/piracy of all kinds, including modchips.
  • Why didn’t Nintendo go for criminal prosecution of Mr Chan and/or Playables? We know from Gilham that console manufacturers have done this before against modchip sellers. Instead Nintendo relied on a civil suit. Why? I can speculate, but really it’s a mystery…

So what next?

In the UK, Playables will likely be shut down, Nintendo’s position has been vindicated, now it and the other console manufacturers will need to focus on the next modchip threat.

However, modchips are used all over the world, with the console manfacturers being forced on jurisdictional grounds to fight legal battles under the legal systems of several different countries to outlaw modchips (for example the New York and Holland lawsuits mentioned above). It is by no means clear that the same result achieved here would be achieved in say France, China or Brazil. All of which unfortunately means continued legal expense and uncertainty for the console manufacturers.

Speculation alert: in the meantime, as far as I am aware there has been no or very little consideration of the use of modchips from a consumer law perspective in Europe, certainly in the UK. Perhaps a consumer law argument could help to change the nature of the argument away from pure copyright considerations? Sounds like a tough gig, but you never know. Watch this space…



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Interplay and Bethesda quietly settle Fallout lawsuit?

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For much of this year, Interplay and Bethesda have been at each other’s throats in a lawsuit over which of them owns the IP in the Fallout series of games (more on that here).  Earlier this year, Bethesda tried but failed to secure a preliminary injunction blocking Interplay from doing any further Fallout-related work, including work on Interplay’s rumoured Fallout MMO.  This was a severe, but not fatal, blow for  Bethesda in the lawsuit.
Then, not much seemed to happen.  Until, in June this year, details of a new Fallout MMO began to trickle out.  Did this mean they have done a deal?  As far as I can see, no formal announcement of the settlement of the lawsuit had been announced.
Now, TVG has spotted that the new Fallout MMO website includes the following text at the bottom of the page:
Fallout® is a registered trademark of Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company, in the U.S. and/or other countries, and is used by Interplay under license from Bethesda Softworks LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
This suggests very strongly indeed that a settlement has in fact been reached, with Interplay acknowledging Bethesda’s ownership (at least in part) of the Fallout IP, in return for which Interplay has been granted a licence to exploit the Fallout IP in relation to the Fallout MMO and possibly beyond. 
If so, it’s good to see that Bethesda and Interplay have been able to resolve their differences, but why not make a public announcement to capitalise on the new goodwill?  Also, what does this mean in terms of Bethesda’s creative/commercial involvement in Fallout Online – are they involved at all?  One would also imagine (and hope) that both sides have had their lawyers go over a new suite of agreements to ensure that the working relationship between them does not break down in the future.  Here’s hoping…
Image credit: WikiMedia
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