from the huh? dept
We noted several years ago that Atari, once the king of the video game industry, has since devolved into a zombie company built only for intellectual property trolling. Copyright, trademark, or patents: Atari will use all of them to try to milk the modern gaming industry for cash. In fact, in past public statements, Atari has made it clear that it has no interest in producing any new games, instead relying on its remaining staff to license its trademarks and port a few decades-old games over to the mobile market. Quite a fall for the once giant of the industry.
And that fall will now include going in front of the PTO's Appeal Board to explain why Atari and Atari alone should be allowed to title a game using the phrase "Haunted House." Why? Well, because it made a game called Haunted House in the early 80's, you see.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has set oral arguments for Atari’s claim against developer Hazy Dreams of Infinity over its use of “Haunted House” in the game Haunted House Tycoon. Atari and defendant Andrew Greenberg, Hazy Dreams founder, present oral arguments on Thursday. In 2011, Atari filed a “notice of opposition” against the Hazy Dreams in an effort to prevent the developer from launching the game, which is still in development. The classic-gaming publisher’s stance is that it owns that trademark in the gaming industry after releasing Haunted House in 1982 for the Atari 2600 console — although Atari did not file for that mark until 2010.So Atari is going to bully a current game maker over a generic term it once used on a game it made over three decades ago, but didn't trademark until 2010. It's hard to think of an example that better shows how trademark law is abused today, deviating from its intended purpose and spirit. There's no customer confusion here to worry about. Nobody is going to mistake Atari's block graphics for the modern Haunted House Tycoon title. This is simply a bullying tactic, likely to generate licensing revenue. That's what Atari is now, after all.
Greenberg, of course, isn't pleased.
“Trying to claim no one else can use the words ‘Haunted’ and ‘House’ is especially ridiculous, considering games have been using the term ‘Haunted House” in titles ever since Magnavox released a game by that name for the Odyssey in 1972,” he said in a statement. “Atari has a horrible reputation for attacking independent game developers, including recently going after TxK developer Jeff Minter,” the Hazy Dreams of Infinity president said.That's true, of course, but the folks running Atari these days don't care about that reputation. It isn't the public that is making them money, after all.
All of this comes as Atari has lost much of its original identity. The company, which has shifted from owner to owner over time, filed for bankruptcy in 2013. It emerged later that year under the ownership of venture capitalist Frederic Chesnais, who says that company is now 10 people primarily responsible for managing its past assets.Ten people working for a company designed to troll actual makers of gaming content, potentially successfully blocking the release of a game because it carries a fairly generic phrase in its title? Yeah, we've gotten so far away from the original purpose of trademark at this point that it's basically unrecognizable.