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Game Name same as Movie Name

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So I've been working on my next game, and I want to name it FireLight. The problem is, there is already a movie by that name: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119125/ The game has absolutely nothing to do with the movie in any way, the titles are the same by pure coincidence. My game probably won't receive much attention as it is, but I'd like to let people download it when I finish. Granted that is a while off until I do so, and the movie was a decade ago, but is there a possibility that I might get in some legal trouble? I'd like to stick with the name, as the story line is something I've been working on for a while. Thanks in advance.

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A product name is generally covered by Trademark protection but ONLY within the same industry. You can't name your burger bar McDonalds but you could have a software company by that name. Likewise the film name would be a trademark only within films... not games.

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Problem #1: Risk Management.

Anybody can sue you for any reason. Even companies who do nothing wrong can be closed because of a lawsuit.

Ignoring the legality issue, you should ask yourself if you really want to make yourself that big of a target.

For a current major example, look at YouTube. When they started they were not a big target for copyright infringement. As they grew and acquired assets they became a bigger target. Viacom wouldn't have gone through with a major lawsuit because the company would have bankrupted itself. Once Google acquired YouTube, they were a sufficiently big target that Viacom knew they could sue and get money from them, so they went for the major lawsuit.

As a small target, you are most likely to get a C&D letter or other legal nastygram at first. They may ask you to sign a settlement admitting guilt and paying them some money. If you really made them mad they will actually file a lawsuit, costing you thousands of dollars up front, and potentially a small fortune over time.


Problem #2: Trademarks.

Assuming you want to take that risk, you must consider what the outcome would be if you were sued and if you decided to fight it and go through court, and the appeals process, and eventually get a "you are right" declaration of law.

One could argue that the film industry and game industry are both part of the entertainment industry. One could argue that your use dilutes their mark generally. One could argue that it causes confusion because somebody might expect it to be a game based on the movie. One could argue that your game is an attempt to defame their movie. There are many other arguments that could be used, but I hope that is enough to show you it is not a good chance of surviving a lawsuit.



The smartest route is to pick a different name now, while it is easy.

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I wouldn't worry about it unless there are enough similarities to the movie in terms of plot, etc., that it will sufficiently confuse the public. Even within the same industry, or related industries, people use the same names regularly.

On the Line (2001)
On the Line (1970)

Totally different movies.

The Thin Blue Line <-- Police TV show
The Thin Blue Line (1988) <-- Murder mystery

Dog (2001)
Dog (2002)
Dog (2006)

Now, if it was something that is very well known and has become emblematic in some way--like "Star Wars" or something--then my answer might be different. I don't think you have to be worried about being sued by the makers of an unheard of film that has nothing in common with your game.

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Original post by Bovine13
So I've been working on my next game, and I want to name it FireLight. The problem is, there is already a movie by that name:
...is a while off until I do so, and the movie was a decade ago, but is there a possibility that I might get in some legal trouble? I'd like to stick with the name, as the story line is something I've been working on for a while.

What does your lawyer say?

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There are four other movies called "Firelight" on IMDB.

Despite what some appear to think, calling a movie "Firelight" does not magically grant you a trademark on the name "Firelight". Searching the trademark database reveals several trademarks for "Firelight", but none are associated with a movie.

smitty1276 uses Star Wars as an example of a name you shouldn't use. That makes sense because Star Wars is (1) trademarked and (2) used on many games. LucasArts would firstly have a legal right to sue you for using their trademark, and secondly a reasonably good chance of showing that your use of the mark was likely to cause confusion.

LucasArts even have a Star Wars trademark (reg. no. 2591820) specifically covering towels and bed linen.

Also, YouTube isn't being sued for violating trademark law.

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Original post by Nathan Baum
Despite what some appear to think, calling a movie "Firelight" does not magically grant you a trademark on the name "Firelight".

Despite what some appear to think, certain minimal trademark protection comes into effect immediately when first used in commerce. Several protections are granted in this way and are enforced with international treaties.

Quote:
Searching the trademark database reveals several trademarks for "Firelight", but none are associated with a movie.

Governmental registration is not a requirement to have trademark protections.


Trademark is a complex area of law, bound with international treaties that are in constant flux. Even lawyers have trouble navigating it.

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Original post by frob
Trademark is a complex area of law, bound with international treaties that are in constant flux. Even lawyers have trouble navigating it.

Exactly. So, to repeat, my question to the OP is: What does your lawyer tell you?

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Original post by tsloper
What does your lawyer tell you?


I don't have a lawyer, and as I'm a college student, I can't afford one.

If I were to change it to "FireLight: The [enter something here]", like "FireLight: The Savior" (that's just an example). Would I be in any possible trouble still?

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Original post by Bovine13
I don't have a lawyer, and as I'm a college student, I can't afford one.

If you can't afford a $150 or so lawyer visit, then how do you think you will fare when you get hit with a lawsuit?

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Original post by Bovine13
I don't have a lawyer, and as I'm a college student, I can't afford one.
If I were to change it to ... "FireLight: The Savior" (that's just an example). Would I be in any possible trouble still?

That's a question you need to ask a lawyer. If you can't afford a lawyer, you may not be ready to enter the minefield of the game industry as a publisher. Can you afford a book on trademark and copyright? Recommend Nolo Press.

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As others have pointed out, either your project is not worth getting a lawyer for, in which case you're not likely to each reach a point when a lawsuit would be something to worry about. Or it is a very serious project in which case the price of a lawyer will be negligible.

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What about if you change the spelling? I have a project that also has the same name as a movie, but my game name is spelt differently, is this OK?

[Edited by - PowerPython on March 29, 2007 2:26:40 AM]

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Original post by PowerPython
What about if you change the spelling? i have a project that also has the same name as a movie, but my game name is spelt differently, is this OK?


Exactly the same thing applies.

What does your lawyer say?
Legal issues are cheaper before troubles than after. If you don't have the money now, do you think you'll have even more money later?
Are you willing to risk the huge cost of a lawsuit?
Are you willing to risk the cost to change your name later?
Are you willing to abandon your project completely rather than face the prospect of a law suit?


It's a business risk, and it depends on your tolerance. Without talking with a lawyer, you can't fully understand what the risks are. Personally I would not take that risk.

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I was actually about to make a thread about this same subject, but maybe since this is already here I will just bring it to the discussion. I've got a couple examples of similar situations. I do game programming as a hobby and I wanted to make a website to post my work on, and one of the names I came up with was "Speed of Dark Studios". I googled it and found that there is a science fiction book called "Speed of Dark". I was wondering if it's okay to use since I added studios on the end, or if it's too descriptive. Another one is that one of the character classes I planned on having was a Technomancer. I googled that as well and there is also a book, and some sort of tabletop game called Technomancer. I wasn't sure if it would be okay to use as a character class or not, since I wouldn't be using it for the game's title or anything. Of course it's not a big deal to me if I'm not allowed to use these things, since I can always just change names, it's the content that counts. Perhaps once I get more of the project done though I will talk with a lawyer, as suggested.

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Jack wrote:
>found that there is a science fiction book called "Speed of Dark". I was wondering if it's okay to use since I added studios on the end, or if it's too descriptive.

What does your lawyer say? (By the way, did you READ the entire thread above?)

>one of the character classes I planned on having was a Technomancer. I googled that as well and there is also a book, and some sort of tabletop game called Technomancer. I wasn't sure if it would be okay to use as a character class or not, since I wouldn't be using it for the game's title or anything.

Again: what does your lawyer say?

>I can always just change names

What a concept!

>Perhaps once I get more of the project done though I will talk with a lawyer, as suggested.

Oh. Never mind my previous questions about what your lawyer said, then. When you find out what he says, other folks with similar questions would love to hear what he tells you! (Not that their lawyers would tell them the same thing, because everybody's question is a little different, and every lawyer has a different slant on things.)

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Original post by tsloper
Jack wrote:
>found that there is a science fiction book called "Speed of Dark". I was wondering if it's okay to use since I added studios on the end, or if it's too descriptive.

What does your lawyer say? (By the way, did you READ the entire thread above?)

>one of the character classes I planned on having was a Technomancer. I googled that as well and there is also a book, and some sort of tabletop game called Technomancer. I wasn't sure if it would be okay to use as a character class or not, since I wouldn't be using it for the game's title or anything.

Again: what does your lawyer say?

>I can always just change names

What a concept!

>Perhaps once I get more of the project done though I will talk with a lawyer, as suggested.

Oh. Never mind my previous questions about what your lawyer said, then. When you find out what he says, other folks with similar questions would love to hear what he tells you! (Not that their lawyers would tell them the same thing, because everybody's question is a little different, and every lawyer has a different slant on things.)


I'm sorry, but I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Is talking to a lawyer a serious suggestion, or were you being facetious? I don't mean to be rude, but I really can't tell... I just want to be certain before I make a fool of myself heh :/

[Edited by - CandleJack on April 7, 2007 3:00:16 PM]

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Jack wrote:
> I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Is talking to a lawyer a serious suggestion, or were you being facetious?

I can't tell for sure, but I'm thinking perhaps you didn't read the entire thread above. If you had read it, you wouldn't ask me if I was serious in suggesting that asking your question of a lawyer was the best way for you to go. You'd know I was - me, and the others who all advised the OP to do exactly that. You say you will talk with a lawyer, and I say excellent, that's exactly what you should do.

The first two times I asked "what does your lawyer say," I hadn't yet read the last sentence of your post saying you will go to a lawyer. I could have deleted those words of mine before posting my reply on the forum, but I left them in for effect, to hammer home the importance of getting professional legal advice.

The only part of my post that was sarcastic was the part where I wrote "what a concept" when you said you could always just change names to avoid any possible problems. Clearly, changing the names couldn't get you into any legal trouble (unless the new names you chose turned out to also be used elsewhere), and would be cheaper than hiring a lawyer. Then again, maybe that was sardonicism rather than sarcasm - or even irony.

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Original post by tsloper
Jack wrote:
> I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Is talking to a lawyer a serious suggestion, or were you being facetious?

I can't tell for sure, but I'm thinking perhaps you didn't read the entire thread above. If you had read it, you wouldn't ask me if I was serious in suggesting that asking your question of a lawyer was the best way for you to go. You'd know I was - me, and the others who all advised the OP to do exactly that. You say you will talk with a lawyer, and I say excellent, that's exactly what you should do.

The first two times I asked "what does your lawyer say," I hadn't yet read the last sentence of your post saying you will go to a lawyer. I could have deleted those words of mine before posting my reply on the forum, but I left them in for effect, to hammer home the importance of getting professional legal advice.

The only part of my post that was sarcastic was the part where I wrote "what a concept" when you said you could always just change names to avoid any possible problems. Clearly, changing the names couldn't get you into any legal trouble (unless the new names you chose turned out to also be used elsewhere), and would be cheaper than hiring a lawyer. Then again, maybe that was sardonicism rather than sarcasm - or even irony.


Ok thank you for clarifying. It was the "what a concept" bit and leaving the original replies in that threw me off and made me a bit unsure, but I understand your intent now, and I'll make sure to speak with a lawyer before making any final decisions. When I do I'll be sure to tell others here with similar questions what I leanred.

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