from the knee-deep-in-the-dumb dept
id Software is not a complete stranger to silly IP enforcement actions. Between trying to own concepts that are un-ownable and occasionally trying to throw its legal muscle around to bully others into not using common words in their own video game titles, the company has proven that it is perfectly capable of playing the IP bully. But at least in those specific instances, if you squint at them, they kinda sorta seem like industry-related, almost understandable IP disputes.
When it comes to how id Software enforces its venerated Doom trademarks, however, that is not the case. The company has a history of opposing and/or sending C&Ds to all kinds of barely related or unrelated commercial entities for trying to register anything that has to do with the word “doom”: podcasts, festivals, and entertainment properties. And now, it appears, thrash metal bands too.
Dustin Mitchell, like many of us in recent years, came across the term “doomscrolling” and decided that “Doomscroll” would be a cool name for his next metal band. After having the idea, he decided to apply for a trademark on the name for musical acts. And then came the opposition from id Software.
In October, Mitchell was noodling around on his guitar before bed when he decided to check his email one last time. A message from a lawyer appeared in his inbox. “Dear Mr. Mitchell,” it read. “My law firm represents Id Software LLC which owns the video game DOOM and related registered trademarks.” That day, October 13, it continued, was the deadline for Id Software LLC, or anyone else, to oppose his trademark application to register “doomscroll.” The lawyer asked Mitchell to agree to extend the deadline. That way, Mitchell and the Doom developer could find time to reach a resolution before any legal action went down.
Mitchell immediately felt funny; even a little sour. He was 10 in 1993, when Doom took the gaming world by storm, empowering edgelord gamers to head-pop demons with a bevy of firearms against the background of fiery hell. He had played Doom and Doom 2 back in the day, both of which he describes as “awesome,” and had listened to the metal-inspired soundtrack for 2020’s Doom Eternal, which he describes as “not bad.” Now Mitchell found himself in an unexpected standoff with its developer. He loved those games as a kid, he says, but “they’re trying to take something away from me that is completely unrelated to them.”
Unrelated in every way. No matter what soundtracks id Software has produced for Doom titles, unless it registered its mark for the music space, that’s entirely besides the point. And even if it did register its mark for musical acts or productions, that still probably doesn’t make this a valid opposition. “Doomscroll” is not in any way a reference to the video game series. Instead, it’s become a common slang term for how everyday folk use social media. They’re not related. Also, the words are not the same and I’m finding it very hard to believe that the metal-thrashing public would somehow be confused into thinking that id Software is somehow involved.
And yet id Software is simply making trouble for a musician because it can.
The company owns several trademarks around the word “doom” and video games; in the last month, the company has also filed oppositions to trademarks for “ODoom” and “Doomlings.” Prior to that, Id Software filed oppositions to entertainment properties the Maryland Doom Fest, Garden of Doom, and Doomsday Happy Hour. JB, the guy behind the Maryland Doom Fest, says he didn’t pursue the trademark after Id’s initial opposition. It would have been too expensive, he guesses. Jeff, who tried to trademark Garden of Doom, his podcast, says he came to an agreement with the lawyers representing Id Software; he says he just can’t make a movie or video game called Garden of Doom.
Right now, the fate of Doomscroll is in the hands of Id Software and the Patent Office. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is processing the Doom developer’s opposition. A hefty trial schedule was sent out mid-October, which stretches deep into 2023. It may not be that Id Software even wants the Doomscroll trademark; it might just not want Mitchell to form a progressive thrash metal band that, maybe, someone will confuse with the storied game series.
Except that’s not going to happen. Either Mitchell, who works at Amazon during the day, is going to fight a likely long and arduous process at the TTAB or, more likely, is going to realize that such a fight isn’t worth the personal cost it would take. And, therefore, id Software’s bullying will work as likely intended, to simply make a smaller entity give up the fight.
Which is why, as we so often say, trademark bullying works. Which sucks.