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.