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Title copyright

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I recently began developing a game, and I choose a title.

After a couple of weeks I searched the name on google, just out of curiosity, and found out that on IMDB, there is a movie, with the same title.

Will this pose a problem for me with copyright?

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This is a matter of trademark, not copyright. If the movie is fairly recent, you may well need to choose a different title. You'll probably need to consult a lawyer before proceeding with the title, regardless.

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If the movie is fairly recent, you may well need to choose a different title.
Sure about the part in emphasis? That almost sounds like trademarks on movies or movie names expire much faster than usual (but maybe I'm only reading it wrong, too?).

 

I mean, to me this almost sounds like if one made e.g. an ego-shooter game and called it "Predator" or "Commando" (1987 and 1985 movies, respectively, pretty old), that would be "OK". Which I'm almost certain would be a recipe for desaster, ending in a super nasty C&D-lawsuit-situation.

Or imagine a game involving gladiator-style fights called "Spartacus" (1960 movie). I'm pretty sure MGM's lawyers would be puking fire and brimstone.

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Probably the point Tom was making is that trademark protects consumers from confusion -- it could be reasonably assumed that a game released in close proximity to a movie of the same name have some relation to one another, not to mention the movie's owner would be more inclined to fight a potentially rival trademark. Both issues are less of a concern if the movie was released long ago, particularly if it's had no sequels/reboots/or games made out of it in the mean time.

 

Of course, it still may not be a great idea to overload the trademark within the broader category of entertainment where movies, books, and games fall. Its always possible they could want to resurrect their old trademark -- maybe even as a game. Or that your game might be successful and someone might want to turn it into a film one day. These might be obscure hazards, but they can all be avoided by choosing a different name.

 

I, myself, have a game in mind and the *perfect* name is also a somewhat obscure Mattel trademark from the late 80s. I haven't decided whether its a good idea to choose another name or not, even though physical toys and video games are very different markets.

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Probably the point Tom was making is that trademark protects consumers from confusion -- it could be reasonably assumed that a game released in close proximity to a movie of the same name have some relation to one another, not to mention the movie's owner would be more inclined to fight a potentially rival trademark.

 

Yup.

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That almost sounds like trademarks on movies or movie names expire much faster than usual

trademark protects consumers from confusion

 

Both of these are true.

 

Copyright currently seems to be eternal. But trademark has a short duration. In the US a federal trademark lasts 10 years with 10 year extensions. If the movie was from the last 10 years you can bet the name is trademarked. If it was twenty years, it is less likely. Thirty, fourty, ninety, the risk is less.  Of course, it is very easy to verify. Just log in to the USPTO's TESS system and search for the mark. If you only see a mark used in the entertainment industry that has been dead for 30 years, go for it.  But if the mark from the movie is still active, or if there are similar marks in any similar industry, be prepared to pick another name.

 

As for protection from confusion, that is one of the primary purposes of trademark. It is used to ensure the goods come from the source they claim. Simply, if I could make a crappy online game, name it "World of Warcraft 2", use the Blizzard logo, and get away with it legally, the game could be terrible and I'd walk away rich. If there is even a slight chance that the name might be confused with some other product or company then trademark protects it.

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In the news this morning: Toho, the company that owns Godzilla, won its lawsuit against the New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. over "Mecha HopZilla," a beer that used a name similar to a Toho character, "Mechagodzilla," and even its logo style.

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If the movie is fairly recent, you may well need to choose a different title.
Sure about the part in emphasis? That almost sounds like trademarks on movies or movie names expire much faster than usual (but maybe I'm only reading it wrong, too?).

 

I mean, to me this almost sounds like if one made e.g. an ego-shooter game and called it "Predator" or "Commando" (1987 and 1985 movies, respectively, pretty old), that would be "OK". Which I'm almost certain would be a recipe for desaster, ending in a super nasty C&D-lawsuit-situation.

Or imagine a game involving gladiator-style fights called "Spartacus" (1960 movie). I'm pretty sure MGM's lawyers would be puking fire and brimstone.

 

 

I agree it's not so clear-cut - though it can be a factor in whether a person might be confused. Spartacus is an interesting example, because there's also Spartacus (2004 miniseries) and Spartacus (2010 TV series) - there have been numerous works in TV and film using the name Spartacus, all to do with Gladiators because after all they are named after the actual historical figure. Were the developers of the TV series Spartacus worried about the earlier works I wonder? And given there is the computer game Spartacus Legends based on the TV series, would a hypothetical independent computer game called "Spartacus" have to worry...?

 

(I have wondered if the additional titles like "Blood and Sand" were for trademark reasons - either to distinguish from previous works, or to strengthen their own trademark claim.)

Edited by mdwh

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In the news this morning: Toho, the company that owns Godzilla, won its lawsuit against the New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. over "Mecha HopZilla," a beer that used a name similar to a Toho character, "Mechagodzilla," and even its logo style.

 

Those who have been to PAX in recent years might recall seeing the Pink Gorilla booth stuffed with retro games on offer. Those who have been going to PAX even longer, or who live near Seattle, might recall a slightly different name, logo, and mascot -- Pink Godzilla. Granted that they were using the primary trademark word verbatim, but even with little/no risk of consumer confusion, and crossing a fricken ocean, they successfully litigated/bullied their trademark against a regional (5 stores now, just 2 then) mom-and-pop used games store. The Godzilla folks are pretty fervent in the defense of their trademark.

 

I still have my oldschool Pink Godzilla plushie.

Edited by Ravyne

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