Take-Two Interactive Appears To Be Morphing From Game Publisher Into IP Troll

from the devolving-more-like dept

There is this thing that sometimes happens to companies that are wildly successful where they stop focusing so much on making the things that made them successful and turn instead to intellectual property trolling. Think Atari, for instance. Atari was once a behemoth in the gaming industry, but have since been reduced to trying to bully and/or sue everyone who comes even remotely close to referencing one of its properties, rather than making any real hay in the industry.

This process of devolving from competing business to grifting troll is at its most obvious in the end-state, where Atari is now. I won’t pretend that a company like Take-Two is anywhere near there just yet, but it is notable that we have seen a recent uptick in the company engaging in this restrictive and trollish behavior. Whether it’s fighting its own modding community to release shitty versions of its own older games or filing trademark oppositions for axe-throwing companies (yes, seriously), this just isn’t where the focus should be for a company known to make amazing AAA video game titles.

There is apparently more here than had been previously known. NME has a decent writeup discussing all the IP action Take-Two is getting involved in, some of which includes the examples mentioned above. However, it also includes a couple of other examples of trademark bullying I hadn’t seen previously. The first deals briefly with an opposition for a trademark application by Hazelight Studios for its game It Takes Two.

The owner of Rockstar Games has filed hundreds of trademark disputes to the United States Patent and Trademark Office over words and phrases like “2K”, “Rockstar” and “Take-Two”.

This included the publisher attempting to file a trademark dispute over It Takes Two with Hazelight Studios. After being published in May of last year, the trademark was abandoned on March 20 this year.

As the post notes, the application was abandoned by Hazelight Studios in March of this year. There is no detail on offer as to whether Take-Two’s threat of opposition was the reason for the abandonment, but that’s mostly besides the point. That point being: this is a silly opposition to begin with. The studio’s name being somewhat similar to the name of the planned game doesn’t really point to any serious concern about public confusion mixing up the two. This appears to be pure trademark maximalism, or bullying.

The second might be closer to a valid opposition, though it still all seems rather silly.

A more recent and open trademark filing from Take-Two concerns Max Pain, a business which according to opencorporates.com promotes Twitch streamers, Youtube content creators and Esports teams. Max Pain was given an incorporation date (the date it can commence business) of June 29 2020.

Whilst the US Patent and trademark office doesn’t appear to list what this specific trademark is over from Take-Two, it appears as though the publisher is filing in connection to Max Payne, the series developed by Rockstar. The trademark dispute has been extended, and appears to be ongoing.

In this case, Max Payne and Max Pain sound the same when spoken, except that the services rendered appear to be significantly different. Sure, streamers stream video games sometimes. Yes, eSports involve video games. But is anyone really looking at a promotion agency for streamers and eSports teams called Max Pain and thinking that this has anything to do with Take-Two’s video game franchise? That seems pretty unlikely.

But wherever you come down on these individual instances, it sure feels like Take-Two is becoming more and more focused on being the IP police rather than doing what made the company the giant it is in the industry: making outstanding AAA games. And that, in turn, feels like it could be the starting point for Take-Two Atari-izing itself.

And that would be a damned shame.

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Companies: rockstar games, take two interactive

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Comments on “Take-Two Interactive Appears To Be Morphing From Game Publisher Into IP Troll”

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16 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

"it appears as though the publisher is filing in connection to Max Payne, the series developed by Rockstar"

Reminder for anyone who’s not up to date with gaming – the series whose last release was in 2012, and to the best of my knowledge has not been indicated would continue in the time since. Apart from the series’ recent addition to the XBox backward compatibility program, no development has been announced for any current gen systems.

This is where patent / trademark / copyright trolling becomes an issue. It’s one thing to protect active products, it’s quite another to do it on something you don’t plan to do anything with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Atari has not made any games in the last 30 years it seems to exist to sell merch based on old games

at least rockstar still makes games
Atari is the basically a boomer relic that has no connection to anyone under 30 years old
I agree rockstar seems to have a very active legal ip department
At least old Nintendo games are quiet good and playable not so old atari games

Anonymous Coward says:

I wouldn’t consider it quite the same thing, as Take Two is still a behemoth in the industry, while Atari ceased to exist long ago, and is resurrected from time to time in the form of a trademark and a cluster of IP that’s just picked up here and there by grifters hoping they can cash in on it, who then discard it when that fails to pull in the expected profits, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Take two abandoned the application, not Hazlelight

From the NME article: "According to the filing: “The owner of the trademark application [Take-Two] withdrew (e.g. abandoned) the application and the application is no longer active.”

So it’s not clear to me who, if anyone, holds a trademark in relation to the game.

However, Marvin Gaye’s estate says "Hold my beer"

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Take two abandoned the application, not Hazlelight

Actually, it makes more sense to say its unclear which trademark application they refer to in your quote, as they just finished describing a trademark application from Hazelight that Take-Two was opposing. If you read the first 3 paragraphs, and try to incorporate your read of paragraph 4, most of the rest of the

"An abandoned trademark dispute from Take-Two Interactive has come to light that saw the publisher file against Hazelight Studios over its co-op title It Takes Two.
The owner of Rockstar Games has filed hundreds of trademark disputes to the United States Patent and Trademark Office over words and phrases like “2K”, “Rockstar” and “Take-Two”.
This included the publisher attempting to file a trademark dispute over It Takes Two with Hazelight Studios. After being published in May of last year, the trademark was abandoned on March 20 this year.
According to the filing: “The owner of the trademark application [Take-Two] withdrew (e.g. abandoned) the application and the application is no longer active.”

The first three paragraphs read that hazelight is the trademark applicant, and Take-two is in opposition. The fourth paragraph is an outlier, and it appears obvious from the mark ups that the guy doing the copy had to change a lot of pronouns to proper names for it to make sense. He clearly changed a pronoun to take-two (that is why take-two is in brackets), and he should have changed it to hazelight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Take two abandoned the application, not Hazlelight

Thanks.

In which case, how did the game get released with the name anyway? Hazelight abandoned the application, but Take Two agreed not to chase becasue EA also have big lawyers?

Looks like I’m not the only one losing the plot, as techspot – who also beat me to the punch on the Marvin Gaye connection – say "Some of the trademarks have been abandoned, including the one against It Takes Two, but plenty are still classed as ongoing."
(https://www.techspot.com/news/92468-take-two-launched-patent-disputes-overt-terms-rockstar.html"

Confused? You will be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Take two abandoned the application, not Hazlelight

From the NME article: "According to the filing: “The owner of the trademark application [Take-Two] withdrew (e.g. abandoned) the application and the application is no longer active.”

So it’s not clear to me who, if anyone, holds a trademark in relation to the game.

However, Marvin Gaye’s estate says "Hold my beer"

Rekrul says:

Newsflash: Take-Two Interactive files case against several major movie studios! In a press briefing, Take-Two’s lawyer said "It has come to our attention that during the filming of all their movies, whenever a scene needs to be shot more than once, they announce the start of the second attempt by saying "Take two!" They are violating our trademark numerous times on every single movie that they make!"

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