from the ragey-rage-rage dept
While Id Software is not a complete stranger to lame and opportunistic intellectual property disputes, I have to say the latest dispute involving the video gaming giant has me scratching my head. Via Newsweek, we learn that a small three-person game studio out of Costa Rica, called Green Lava Studios, is being forced to change the name of a port of its PC game, Fenix Rage, for its console release. Have you guessed why yet? No? Well, that’s probably because the issue is over Id Software’s game R.A.G.E., originally released in 2011. Id Software sent Green Lava Studios a cease and desist letter, citing its trademark on the word “rage” for the purposes of video games.
In October 2011, id Software developed and released a game called RAGE. The 3-D post-apocalyptic game received fairly positive reviews, but has since been largely forgotten. Three years later, in September 2014, Green Lava Studios released Fenix Rage on PC. Fenix Rage is a 2-D game in which players have to guide a superhero through hundreds of incredibly difficult puzzle-like levels. Nearly a full year after Fenix Rage’s release, the game was about to be ported to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One when the legal threat arrived.
“We were told we would have to change our name or take this to court,” Ramírez tells Newsweek. “That is not an option because we don’t have the resources to do that.” Ramírez was running a three-man development team, small by the standards of most game studios, and felt he had an obligation to actually release a game.
You may be wondering, as I was when originally looking into this, how it came to be that Id Software was challenging the release of the console version of a game that had already been released for PCs in 2014 without issue. The answer appears to be that Id software only registered the trademark for “Rage” in 2015, long after the release of its game, and long after the release of Green Lava Studios’ Fenix Rage game on PC.
While the name Fenix Rage would have to be changed for consoles, it can still be sold as Fenix Rage on PC. This is because id Software trademarked the word “Rage” on January 12, 2015, after Fenix Rage had already been released on PC.
“The game would be already launched,” Ramírez said when asked how much this whole affair has delayed the studio. “We’ve been delayed around six months now, and counting.”
I’m going to summarize this, because when you put the timeline in a single instance, none of this makes sense: Id Software releases R.A.G.E. in 2011, Green Lava releases Fenix Rage on PC in 2014, Id Software trademarks “rage” in early 2015 and then disputes the release of a console port of Green Lava’s PC game in late 2015 on into 2016. Let’s not lose site of the key point in this: Fenix Rage has already been made and released. The console version is a port of that game. But now, because of the threat of the much larger Id Software and its trademark on the word “rage” granted several years after the release of its game, Green Lava is capitulating and changing the name of its console version.
The legal action completely demoralized the team at Green Lava Studios. ”It was really sad,” Ramírez said. “We got this award, the GameMaker Showcase Game of the Year. It was the first award our country had gotten for game making. We got it with the name Fenix Rage. That’s something we cannot mention now on consoles.”
Green Lava Studios ultimately settled on Fenix Furia for its console release. “We wanted to get a name and keep the same ‘rage’ attitude.” Ramírez said. “It’s a raging game, after all.”
This, of course, is not what trademarks are for. Nowhere is anyone seriously going to believe there is any customer confusion at the heart of this. Rather, this is Id Software being Id Software and stomping on a small game studio in another country, seemingly for no other reason than because it can. Green Lava Studios should fight this, because it would likely win any dispute for any number of reasons. But you can’t blame the much smaller company for being wary of a legal battle with a larger company. Trademark bullying, at its best.