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Game name similarity, legal question

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Hello there, I wanted to ask anyone out there about a possible issue regarding game names. Let's say there was an established game called "Pan Online". In fact the game was a registered trademark ( I assume because of (R) symbol ). If I wanted to create another game, perhaps superior to "Pan Online". Same genre but totally different in every sense and I named it "Pan", could I encounter any legal issues from the people ( or legal representitives ) of "Pan Online" ? Both games of course would be drastically different, like comparing chalk and cheese but both would be the same genre and share the word "Pan" in their names. Thanks

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I'm not an expert, but I do know a little about this. It depends on the word and on the game. Pan is a generic word, so if the game was about making pans online, then you shouldn't have a problem. If the game is about collecting Pokemon-like creatures, then you probably will have a problem. The fact that they managed to get a registered trade mark at least hints that they aren't doing the former.

Why do you want to use the same/similar name?

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Daniel is part right. If you had a game called "Pots and Pans" about a mad chef then you would be OK. Using the SAME name - Pan Online is trademark infringement and given that it is a registered trademark the owners would have no trouble getting the court to stop you using it.

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In this case, we're talking about the difference between:

"Pan Online"

and simply "Pan".


It's like "you can't name your game 'Hell on Wheels', because it contains the word 'Hell' that we have in our title, 'One day in Hell'".

Of course you could still name the game 'Hell on Wheels'. However, you cannot name a game "Coca Cola Online" without being screwed.

Now, the way I see it, shouldn't the final question, legally, all come down to: Is "Online" a vital part of the name "Pan Online"?

I know this is true in copyright law. Everything has different values, which must be weighted in a court.

However, titles aren't protected by copyright law.


I'm a part of the same team as the owner of this topic, and we really want to use the name for our game, so if it's possible to do it, we want to do it. Why? Because no other name encapsulates the soul of the game as well.

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A similar lawsuit is playing out right now, between "Office Live" and Microsft's "Office Live" product. The first is a companies full name and website. The second is the "Live" (generic word) version of "Office".

It isn't decided yet.

And your case is slightly better cause you are trying to avoid conflict with "Pan Online" by using just "Pan".

But, you are probably not OK. The reason is A) It is lickely to cause customer confusion, because you are direct competitors in offering the same type of product. B) It is likely to cause the other company financial harm (google searches will likely pull you up as well), and C) You had fore knowledge about the copyright.

try a slightly different name first.

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Well "Online" is descriptive and as such shouldn't be a trademark (but that doesn't mean much in reality) so the actual trademark should be Pan® Online. However if the word Pan is a common name (Pan is a card game) that should also make it impossible to use as a trademark. Using a cut down version of the name would be a problem but adding something might be OK. "Pan - the amber chronicles" would be OK.

Having said that the legal issues are really unimportant. There are two more important issues to consider...
1. Using the same name may cause confusion that would damage your game as much as theirs.
2. They have paid to register their trademark and as such are very likely to defend it. It really isn't worth the risk.

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I guess adding something to it should solve the problem.

Such as ... well, something like "Under Pan", which should not count as similar to "Pan Online".

(Do note that "pan" isn't the actual word we want to use.)

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Just make sure its not something like:

Pokemon, Middle Earth, Warcraft, etc. As long as the the you are sharing was already common and in use before the trademark, a variation that is not TOO close should be fine (although TOO close is up to a court to determine).

Normally though the part before the word online is trademarked, like:

Magic the Gathering Online and Ultima Online, so you can't use:

Ultimate Magic the Gathering, or Under Ultima.

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1. You need to talk to a lawyer.
2. Your asking us to answer a question without actually knowing what all the question is. In legal issues you can't say what would happen in the case of "something like.....".

If you can't tell us what the word is then you need to go and talk to someone you can tell (a lawyer).

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