Bethesda Trademark Bullying Results In Indie Game Adding A Whole Letter To Its Name, But Not Its Logo

from the a-for-effort dept

One of the most infuriating aspects of typical trademark disputes is how often the dire nature of the supposed infringement is ratcheted up in the threat rhetoric, while the eventual settlement reached seems laughably inconsequential. Bethesda, which has built a reputation for itself in terms of trademark bullying over its video game franchises, has been an example of this sort of thing in the past. When it decided that it owned the term “scrolls” generally after trademarking its Elder Scrolls franchise, it launched a dispute with developer Mojang over its game which was titled Scrolls. Much was made about the potential for customer confusion, except the eventual settlement allowed Mojang to keep the name for its game. One wonders why such a settlement would be agreed to by Bethesda were its original assertions remotely accurate.

But where Mojang’s settlement was at least cut and dry, such is not the case with indie studio No Matter Studios. No Matter held a successful Kickstarter campaign for its game Prey for the Gods, but ran into trouble when it tried to trademark the name for its title.

In a post mostly about updates made to the game following its successful Kickstarter, No Matter Studios also announce that the project will now be known as Praey for the Gods after Bethesda “chose to oppose our [trademark].”

“We could’ve fought this and we did think about it for quite a while”, the statement says. “Something like a trademark opposition can be long and depending on how far someone wants to fight it can be very expensive. We didn’t want to spend our precious Kickstarter funds, nor did we want to have to ask for additional funds to fight this in court.”

Instead of fighting, No Matter reached an agreement with Bethesda, and that agreement carries with it a hilariously meager name change for No Matter’s game. Instead of calling it Prey for the Gods, it will instead be titled Praey for the Gods. A single lower-case “a”, it seems, is all it took to satisfy Bethesda’s hunger for trademark protection. I would submit to you, dear readers, that any potential customer confusion is unlikely to be alleviated by that single character.

Particularly when No Matter is allowed to keep the original name in its logo for the game.

“While we disagree with their opposition we were able to come to an agreement”, No Matter say. That agreement means that they can continue to use a logo that says Prey For The Gods, with a stylised “e” that’s actually the silhouette of a woman praying, but must use Praey for the Gods every time the game’s name is written.

And that might actually be confusing, but not in any way that points gamers to Bethesda. For the name of the game and its logo to be different is going to strike everyone as odd, all while the actual name change rings as wholly inconsequential.

I’m not sure what kind of billable hours get generated for this sort of thing, but I give Bethesda’s lawyers an A for effort when it comes to justifying the timecard.

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Companies: bethesda, no matter sudios

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Comments on “Bethesda Trademark Bullying Results In Indie Game Adding A Whole Letter To Its Name, But Not Its Logo”

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11 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

This shit needs to stop. Trademarks need to be enforced with more consistency. The fact that there are thousands of games for several different gaming systems/platforms that include some of the same words should nullify this issue far faster and without need for settlements in favor of the bullies. We need a trademark version of a SLAPP law for getting rid of absolutely ridiculous trademark oppositions with as little effort necessary as possible.

Anonmylous says:

dafuq?

so… its Zenimax suing as the holders of the trademark for a game called Prey no one ever heard of (they bill it as a cult classic, industry speak for shitty game that was popular long after it left retail life).

No. No, you do NOT own the word Prey! That mark should never have been allowed. The game was conceived and began work in 1995 and wasn’t released until 2006. Anyone checked to make sure Zenimax did their diligence in keeping the mark valid? 20+ years is 2 renewals and the first one passed before they were technically using the mark in the marketplace. Just sayin’.

“”Prey is not a sequel, it’s not a remake, it has no tie with the original,” Arkane Studios creative director Raphael Colantonio stated in an interview recently released on Bethesda’s YouTube page, “you have to look at it like a re-imagining of the IP.”” That’s from July of last year. If a trademark is supposed to protect a brand, and that brand changes so it has nothing in common with the original, is it a valid trademark still?

Please, please! Popehat, EFF, Insane Clown Posse, anyone, step up and help fight this fight, this one really should be fought. We need a better way to invalidate over-broad and incredibly abusable marks like this one, but since we don’t have one, courts are the only way.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: dafuq?

“the holders of the trademark for a game called Prey no one ever heard of”

It sold 1 million copies. Whether or not you’re familiar with it, other people definitely are.

For the record, I quite enjoyed it though the long development cycle left its mark. It had some truly unique game mechanics and some nice story and other elements. It’s certainly dated by today’s standards (part of the reason why development pivoted from Prey 2 to a reboot of the IP), but it’s definitely not a bad game.

“The game was conceived and began work in 1995 and wasn’t released until 2006”

So? Are you saying that a product having a long time in development should invalidate the trademark? MGM should have lost the trademarks on the Oz movies because there were decades between sequels?

“If a trademark is supposed to protect a brand, and that brand changes so it has nothing in common with the original, is it a valid trademark still?”

There’s a lot of examples of this, and I’d bet, say, Nintendo would want some words about whether the Donkey Kong trademark still applies to Donkey Kong Country and the character in Mario Kart even though they bear no resemblance to the original game.

David (profile) says:

Still Bethesda after all these screw ups.

I mean years. Years of screw ups that is.
Bethesda corporate traits:
Ham fisted, got it.
Wrong headed, fully cross threaded to boot.
Punishing anyone that they hired to do work, in a heartbeat.
Puking out drafts by trainee lawyers that never once understood how trademarks work, but the boss said “do it” and by god they did.

Only one place worse, Zenimax. IP destruction and soul sucking at its worst.
Oh wait!

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