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Naming

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Usualy choosing a name is the last thing I do for a game, but I eventualy reach that point so... - How can I be sure that the name I choose for a game is unique (besides googling, ofcourse)? - Does it matter if that name is already registered in other countries? - Is there a problem if somebody-somewhere reserves a name but it's not made public yet (or something like that) and I use it first? - Is it enough to simply use an addon like "LeChuck's Star Wars" [lol] to make it unique? (after all, the entire string forms a name, nobody can reserve usual simple words like star, war or cola, that would be insane...) - Are there any rules in naming? Thanks [smile]!

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First off, you need to get something in your head. Anybody can sue you for any reason they can imagine. It doesn't matter how crazy or stupid the reason is, or if you are at fault or not, they can still sue you.

Fortunately the stupid/crazy lawsuits are generally thrown out, and they only occur when some greedy people set sights on very rich companies.


Trademark law is handled by a whole bunch of international treaties, at a national level, at state/provincial levels, and probably other levels around the world.

Trademark issues are ultra complex, but the concept is simple: Don't use any distinctive element that can be at all confused with somebody else's distinctive element.

>> How can I be sure that the name I choose for a game is unique (besides googling, ofcourse)?

Search the major search engines for key substrings, search the USPTO TESS database as was mentioned, and that should be good enough. For your own records, you might want to just print out the search results and stuff them in your business binder. They'll just be evidence that you did in fact perform a search.

>> Does it matter if that name is already registered in other countries?

Not really. Even if they sue in Spain or South Africa, and you don't show up in their country's court, and they find against you, they generally can't do anything about it unless you go to the country or have assets there. This scenario is very rare anyway so you shouldn't worry about it unless you are blatantly using somebody else's mark.

>> Is there a problem if somebody-somewhere reserves a name but it's not made public yet (or something like that) and I use it first?

Doesn't happen. Trademarks are established when they are first used in commerce. There might be other problems if you intentionally steal a mark and rush to use it before the originating group can use it, but that is another issue.

>> Is it enough to simply use an addon like "LeChuck's Star Wars" [lol] to make it unique? (after all, the entire string forms a name, nobody can reserve usual simple words like star, war or cola, that would be insane...)

"Star Wars" is a trademark, and is vigorously enforced globally. Using those words in your name without permission from Lucas Arts. It is immediately recognized and associated with the Lucas Arts stuff.

You are right that companies can't 'reserve' common nouns and remove them from the language, but it does happen.

One significant case was Visa (the credit card people) eventually taking down a web site devoted to providing information about visas (the travel documents) named eVisa. The courts ruled that even though they didn't infringe on the trademark, it could be diluting the trademark (making the Visa credit card brand slightly less valuable). Just because it doesn't directly infringe on their trademark doesn't mean you won't get in trouble for using a name close to a major company's name.

Another case was MikeRoeSoft, where a guy named Mike Roe who (legitimately) used his own name. According to Trademark law he does have a right to use his own name, but he had to spend a lot on legal bills and eventually decided to pick a different name for his stuff.


>> Are there any rules in naming?

There are other rules that should be obvious, you can't use "Bank" or "Credit Union" if you aren't a financial institution for example. Government related marks are also off limits.

Just be creative and come up with your own stuff. Don't try to be cute by mimicking something else.

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Quote:
Original post by frob
Trademark issues are ultra complex, but the concept is simple: Don't use any distinctive element that can be at all confused with somebody else's distinctive element.

Quoted for emphasis. That's the whole point of trademark law.

I'm not an expert at this, but my understanding of the rules of thumb for coming up with a name are:
  • Don't try to deliberately pick a trademarkable name that gets its strength from an association with another trademark.
  • If you pick a name you think its reasonably unique, do a basic search (i.e. search engines, trademark databases, Wikipedia) to make sure it hasn't been used in something before that you haven't heard about. Try a few close derivatives too to be on the safe side.
  • If you really want to be sure and/or there's a fair amount of investment that needs to be protected, it's best to get a legal expert to help you.


Quote:
Is it enough to simply use an addon like "LeChuck's Star Wars" [lol] to make it unique?


As you knew from the LOL, both "Star Wars" and "LeChuck" are trademarks of Lucasarts [smile].

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Romanian Chuck asked:
>- How can I be sure that the name I choose for a game is unique (besides googling, ofcourse)?

Ask your lawyer.

>- Does it matter if that name is already registered in other countries?

Your lawyer can tell you.

>- Is there a problem if somebody-somewhere reserves a name but it's not made public yet (or something like that) and I use it first?

Here's an idea: Ask your lawyer.

>- Is it enough to simply use an addon like "LeChuck's Star Wars" to make it unique? (after all, the entire string forms a name, nobody can reserve usual simple words like star, war or cola, that would be insane...)

No. Talk to your lawyer.

>- Are there any rules in naming?

Yes. Your lawyer can tell you about them.

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/faq61.htm

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Don't worry TSLOPER, I will. I was just trying to make a general idea about this, you know? If I had a big company, I woudn't probably even enter this site - I could ask or even order lawyers, programmers, book-keepers or artists about everything I need. But I do not own that, so I have to find out a few things for myself first, to make a plan, before seeking paid services. It's like in games, it's easy to play with a level 10 hero and blast everything with an armageddon spell, but when you start with a level 1 hero you actualy try to see ahead, so you won't run out of gold or mana or worse - hehe

Thanks again for your answers [smile]

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Lech wrote:

>If I had a big company, I woudn't probably even enter this site

Yes, sure. But you're heading into a swamp without a guide. It's a dangerous place, and you should NOT go into the swamp without a guide. The cost of the guide is very small compared to the cost of what can happen to you wandering around in the swamp unguided.

If you want to learn about how to title a game without paying for a lawyer, buy a good book. Nolo Press has one about how to name a website or a company - same principles apply to titling a game. Read up on trademarks. Nolo has a great book on copyright, trademark, and patent. Although the book is about American law, a lot of the same principles apply in Europe just as well. Read about the Berne Convention. Go on Wikipedia and start reading a lot.

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