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GroZZleR

One Word Game Names - Trademark Infringement?

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Hey all, I'm under the impression that you cannot trademark a common English word. So could you, in theory, release a game called Doom or Quake? Perhaps going further back, something like Joust or Asteroids? Thanks.

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As far as I understand trademark law (and I'm no lawyer, so don't take what I write as gospel), you can trademark a common English word in a context outside its original domain. In other words, if you sold apples at the fruit market, you coulnd't trademark "Apple", but you can trademark Apple if you sell records or computers. Note that the Apple trademarks in these cases only apply to their domains (that's how the computer company Apple could get their trademark even though Apple Corps already had a trademark, and why they keep being involved in lawsuits any time they do anything related to music).

So you can't make a game called "Doom" or "Quake", because those words are already trademarked with respect to games. However Lucasarts could make a game based on "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", because in that case the "doom" is unlikely to be associated with id's "Doom".

However it's much better to try to use your own name, as it will avoid any potential legal nastiness.

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Quote:
Original post by Mike2343
They have the name Doom copyrighted. The trademark applies to the image (logo) from my understanding.


I'm almost certain trademarks apply to names and logos, while copyrights are for actual works (such as software, movies, paintings, etc).

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Hasbro owns the world's largest collection of one-word trademarks. Sorry, Monopoly, Diplomacy, Risk, Clue - just to toss a few out there.

Having survived a two year trademark legal fight (I was not the infringer!), I can offer other small companies a little advice. Trademark laws were designed to protect major companies from being infringed upon by small companies; not the other way around.

If you infringe on Coca-Cola, they have a wide variety of options to stop you from infringing on their mark. If, on the other hand, a major corporation wishes to infringe on your mark, the hard reality is that it is very hard for you to do much to stop them.

And even if it is a clear and obvious infringement, be prepared to spend a _lot_ of money to try to defend your mark. (And keep in mind when you're calculating the possible return of investing $50-100k in legal costs, that the trademark law doesn't provide for any punitive damages. Even if they intentionally and willfully infringe on your registered trademark.)

Just a little advice from somone who's been down this road and acquired a very expensive education along the way...

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Nope. There's not conflict with my business name (which is the name of the creek that runs through the backyard of the house I lived in for 22 years).

I have a registered trademark for a game called SpiritWars. A "much bigger" company decided to release another game using the same name a few years back.

Things were eventually settled. And, under the terms of the agreement, I'm supposed to say nothing but really nice things about the folks who infringed on my trademark. :) But I can tell you that I still have - and use - my mark; and that they don't. And that it cost me tons of money. And only the lawyers were happy in the end.

I'll add a comment about GroZZler's question about "common" English words. Technically, if you read the fine print, common every day words are excempt from trademark protection. This, as with all law, however is open to intrepretation - and the more expensive the lawyer, the more creative they can define this. I had my trademark challenge because "SpiritWars" is such a common part of every day language that it should have been exempt from trademark protection. That challenge, obviously, didn't prevail. However, it just goes to show that with most law - and especially business law - there is a huge advantage to the party with the most money to spent on lawyers.

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