from the seeing-red dept
Way back in 2017, years before CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077 in a poor enough state so as to kickoff lawsuits from investors and a shitstorm of criticism by the public, we discussed how CDPR had acquired the US trademark for “Cyberpunk” in its licensing arrangements and then applied for a mark on the same term in the EU. The problem, of course, is that “cyberpunk” isn’t just the name of a series of tabletop and video games, but also the name of a broad genre of fiction. These are trademarks that should never have been granted, as they are akin to getting a trademark on something like “True Crime”. Plenty of folks in American and the EU cried foul over this, leading to CDPR putting out a statement that, among other things, noted that the company is not a trademark bully and would not be aggressive in enforcing the mark for unrelated projects in the cyberpunk genre. Pay special attention to the tweet from CDPR below in the section headed “What does it mean that CD Projekt owns the trademark for “Cyberpunk”?
Information about Cyberpunk trademark. pic.twitter.com/4mufRCp9Gf
— CD PROJEKT RED (@CDPROJEKTRED) April 6, 2017
That’s a pretty clear commitment that CDPR wouldn’t prevent others from creating games or content in the cyberpunk genre, right? Well, intentionally or not, it appears that CDPR did not keep to this commitment, as at least one indie tabletop game developer on Itch.io has now had a trademark claim issued against his game, which has nothing to do with Cyberpunk 2077 and is instead just a game in the cyberpunk genre.
In a post published on Twitter recently, user and game developer Ethan H. Reynolds has struck out against CD Projekt Red, the studio behind Cyberpunk 2077, after their own game, Neon Nights, was issued with a trademark strike. The strike claims that Reynolds’ game, specifically the artwork, is alleged to be “violating rights” despite the fact that their game is not related in any way to Cyberpunk. Reynolds says in their tweet that this could be down to a corporate bot that simply scans for the word “cyberpunk” despite the fact that, according to the tweet, the word can relate to a genre as well as a specific game name.
That’s simply not an excuse that works. Not in general and most certainly not in this case, with CDPR having publicly stated that its mark wouldn’t be used in this way. If it really was some bot that saw the description of the game and struck out due to it being in the cyberpunk genre, that really isn’t any better. The end result is still the same: CDPR is enforcing its trademark in a way that is impeding the ability of others to create content in the cyberpunk genre.
If I had to guess, I would agree with Reynolds that an automated system is likely the culprit here. But that too is on CDPR for using that system. And Reynolds is rightly pissed.
The indie developer goes on to say that they have tried to support CD Projekt Red in the past, particularly when it comes to their games, but now says “no more” to defending the company. It does seem as though this could be a case of mistaken identity. According to the game’s page on Itch.io, Neon Nights is a tabletop role-playing game that just happens to have a “cyberpunk/dystopian” theme, and is not related to CDPR’s title.
And who can blame him for being angry? Why should fellow creatives have to navigate trademark claims against their projects just because CDPR insisted on getting a trademark for a generic name of an entire genre of fiction? Why should anyone look kindly on the company that promised this wouldn’t happen only to let it happen anyway?
And, since it failed to keep that promise, why shouldn’t we start asking once again why this trademark was applied for and approved in the first place?