Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MDK Sues Capcom Over Dead Rising

MDK, perhaps spurred by Capcom's seeking of a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, has sued Capcom claiming that C's popular Dead Rising infringes on the copyrights and trademarks associated with Dawn Of The Dead. Capcom claimed that the scenario of Zombies attacking a mall is an "unprotectable theme". MDK cared to differ offering, "both works are dark comedies [where] the recreational activities of the zombies and absurdly grotesque 'kill scenes' provide unexpected comic relief...both works provided thoughtful social commentary on the 'mall culture' zeitgeist, in addition to serving up a sizable portion of sensationalistic violence."

MDK Sues Capcom: Sensationalistic!

I haven't played Dead Rising, but from a only-judging-a-book-by-its-cover perspecitive, Dead Rising does look a lot like Dawn of the Dead. For copyright infringement, there must be actual copying (showing this could be problematic because surely the theme of zombies being killed in suburbia has been done before). TM infringement on the other hand relies on a likelihood of confusion standard, regardless of whether the idea is copied or not. It seems like there is a great likelihood of confusion, but it will be interesting to see how the courts classify the DotD mark - probably descriptive, and therefore not warranting as much protection as a suggestive, or fanciful term (they may even claim it is generic, but I think that generic term would be something like, Zombie Movie). It seems like Capcom has admitted that there is a likelihood of confusion by including a disclaimer on the box, but then again, the disclaimer may be enough to limit or eliminate any liability.

Activision Shareholders Sue Over No Control Premium

The Wayne County Employees' Retirement System, a shareholder of Activision, is suing the company because it believes that Activision did not exercise sound business judgment by relinquishing control ownership to Vivendi in their recent/soon-to-be merger without securing a control premium for selling that control. Vivendi will receive a 52% stake in the company.

Shareholders of the Next Biggest Video Game Company Sue Over "Unfavorable Minority Position"

By relinquishing control, the shareholders of Activision are put at a will be interesting to see how the courts will determine exactly how disadvantaged they are.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DJ Hero Trademark Application Hints at Expanding Activision IP

Continuing with its line of "Hero" games, Activision has filed an application for a trademark for "DJ Hero." Again, a trademark application does not mean that a game is in development, only that the company is thinking about it.

DJ "Copycat" Hero

As deftly noted by 1up, this would not be the first time that a Western developer has borrowed one of Konami's Music game ideas. But then again, who ever heard of Guitar Freaks anyway?

3D Realms Sued for Copyright Infringement

Darin Scott and Edward Polgardy filed suit against 3D Realms over the pruported stealing of their idea by 3D Realms for the upcoming Earth No More. Scott and Polgardy claims they pitched an idea to 3D for a game called Earth No More in which a spore has begun transforming and terraforming Earth into a hideous world full of mutated monsters. 3D Realms has a game coming out called Earth No More, in which a spore has begun transforming and terraforming Earth into a hideous world full of mutated monsters. So, I don't get it...what are they suing for? It's not like they copied the idea or anything.

Copy No More

I am very interested in this case. There is no mention yet about whether a NDA was signed or not, and if so, what the implications of that would be. I have thought about pitching an idea for a game to a company before, but I always hesitated because it just seemed so easy to steal the idea. Now I know, it may not be so easy; and in the case, the copying looks blatant.

Australia Bans Another: Dark Sector

By denying Dark Sector a rating, the Office of Film and Literature Classification in Australia has effectively banned the game down under, it being a crime to own or sell unrated entertainment. The OFLC cited the extreme violence of the game and focused heavily on the blood-spurting animation that accompanies the gameplay.

Down Under Not Down With Dark Sector

Hit the link to see other games that Australia has banned: the list is longer than one might think.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Capcom Files Preemptive Suit Against MDK

MDK, makers of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, have been sued preemptively by Capcom to “eliminate any doubt that [Capcom']s ‘Dead Rising’ video game does not infringe on any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights” owned by MKR. Apparently, MKR had already sent Capcom, Microsoft, and Best Buy attorneys a draft of a complaint, spurring Capcom into action to receive a Declaratory judgment. MKR also contacted Capcom before the game was released and claimed that it was infringing on their copyrights. Capcom claims that MKR doesn't have the exclusive right to make media associated with a human battling zombies in a mall and believes that the disclaimer on the front of Dead Rising proclaiming that is not affiliated with Dawn of the Dead is sufficient for a court to grant them a declaratory judgment of non-infringement.

Dawn of the Declaratory Judgment

For copyright infringement, it is sufficient if the expression is not lifted, but it seems like the trademark, and more specifically the trade dress, issues of Dead Rising scream "strong likelihood of confusion." I know the first time I saw the box, my first thought was Dawn of the Dead, until I read that disclaimer. Will the disclaimer be enough?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ubisoft Wins $13.2 Million From Bratz Producers

Back 2002, MGA, the companies that produces every little girls favorite role-model dolls: Bratz, signed an agreement with Ubisoft for U to handle any games related with the toys. After Bratz blew up, MGA tried to force a renegotiation with Ubisoft by terminating the contract for no apparent reason and proceeded to criticize Ubisoft's handling of the license. Ubisoft sued and won over $13 million.

You Bratz Ever Heard of Courtz?

The dispute was settled through arbitration.

Casual Pirates - How Much Damage Are They Doing?

Gamasutra is featuring an interesting article about piracy of casual games. Starting from the mind-boggling statistic that 92% of Reflexive's Ricochet Infinity games are pirated, Russell Carroll then examines the impact of anti-piracy measures on the number of people buying the game. His conclusion: for every thousand pirated copies prevented, only one of those becomes a paying customer. Damn.

Pirates Steal Software, Not Sales

Carroll ultimately states, "a pirated copy is more like the loss of a download than the loss of a sale." This is congruent with my experience of piracy: pirates take games they would not buy (and some they would). The value of having the pirate play the game is not taken into account, and often, once the pirate can afford games, he will buy those games that are worth it (much like all of those college kids that download a bunch of music then end up buying the CDs with songs they really liked).

Square Enix Sues Sword Counterfeiter

Square Enix, as part of its anti-piracy initiatives, has filed suit in California against several defendants claiming that they are infringing on Square's IP rights by selling replica swords modeled after swords from SE's popular Final Fantasy series. With cooperation from Homeland Security, Agents seized a crate of unlicensed swords. After the retailers refused to tell SE where they got the swords from, SE initiated this action.

Nice Try Buster!

Square claims that it must enforce their IP rights or risk losing them. They are correcto!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Trademark Application Hints at Apple Gaming

Apple, provider of most things cool, has filed a trademark application to secure the Apple brand for "Toys, games and playthings, namely, hand-held units for playing electronic games; hand-held units for playing video games; stand alone video game machines; electronic games other than those adapted for use with television receivers only; LCD game machines; electronic educational game machines; toys, namely battery-powered computer games." While filing a trademark application sets nothing in stone, it does show that Apple is thinking in the gaming direction.

iGame...I already want it!

As Apple pushes further into the media distribution business, it makes sense for them to be brainstorming like this --> Ars Technica makes some good points about the potential uses with the Apple TV. I am excited to see just what Apple has in store.

UK to Legally Enforce Ratings

Retreating from the current pan-European ratings PEGI, the UK government is set to introduce legally enforceable game ratings similar to those used for movies and other video content. Right now, only games with sex or "gross" violence are reviewed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and given a rating. The government is also encouraging parents to monitor their children's video game time and discouraging them from placing systems in bedrooms.

UK Ratings Get Bite

Legislation like this has been introduced in America repeatedly, but is consistently shut down for violating the 1st amendment. Luckily for the UK, they have no such codified constitution to hold them back.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vagina Monologues in Second Life Suspended by HBO

The organizers of the Second Life Vagina Monologues have had their right to produce the VMs in SL rescinded because HBO, the owner of the broadcast rights (meaning TV, film, etc.), believes that they are infringing., the holders of the performance rights (theater, plays, etc.), originally granted license to the troupe, but HBO pulled its card and stopped the performances. The organizers in SL insist that the VMs are not banned, just suspended.

SL VMs Stop

The reporter for the SL Herald, Jassica Holyoke, wonders aloud if SL will become the next Grokster or Napster. That thought seems right on to me, especially if there is not much enforcement of IP rights in SL - those rights get taken away if not enforced. SL could become a virtual theater, capable of reproducing any of the greatest works (or movies for that matter). It does seem clear though that this is a broadcast and most likely falls under the purview of HBO's broadcast rights. Interesting to see how stories like these develop.

Virtual Goods Stolen, Police Do Nothing

Blaine, WI resident, Geoff Luurs fell victim to a heinous crime. His "friend" obtained his user name and password and wiped his FFXI account clean. Luurs did the math and claims that he lost over $3800 worth of virtual property. He called the police, but they did nothing because they believe that the goods have no real value.

My Gil is Worth Something!

I like the reaction of Mike Fahey at Kotaku, and I think that his gut is correct in believing that if the government begins recognizing virtual items as having real value, then the next logical step would be to tax them. It seems a bit like the "don't give licenses to illegals" argument in the sense that it is odd for one arm of the government (police saying the virtual goods have worth) to take an opposite stance to another arm of the government (the IRS saying they have no worth). The thing that perplexes me though is that seems well-settled to me that this stuff has value. While it may not have a physical manifestation, there are still people who are willing to buy this stuff - if a WoW gift card came out that only had a sword on it, I bet people would buy it. Virtual goods are commodities. While I agree that the tax implications are mind-boggling, and surely going to be a pain to gamers everywhere, virtual goods will be thought of the way they should be, as valuable property, for better or worse.

Friday, February 1, 2008

European Patent Filings Show Possible Wii Adaptations

Recently published patent applications from Nintendo show some pretty *interesting* ideas for Wii accessories. Of note is the Wiimote charger, which would be nice...the rest of the ideas, well, from the pictures they do not look as stunning.

Wiibear? Wiibike? Wiiboard? They all sound cooler than they look...

Before any reader goes too bonkers about how stupid these drawings look, remember that patent drawings are very rough, and may not correspond with the product envisioned exactly. For example, the teddy bear shot could just be an illustration of using the Wiimote with a toy not traditionally affiliated with games (or something like that). Although, the idea of using a teddy bear to control a game sounds...innovative. Yes, innovative...

Blizzard Settles with In Game Dollar, IGD No Longer in WoW

Blizzard, with the help of mega-firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal, secured a settlement, including a permanent injunction against In Game Dollar to prevent them from "engaging in the sale of [WoW] virtual assets or power level services, making any use of the [WoW] in-game communication or chat system to advertise any website, business, or commercial endeavor, or sending messages to the [WoW] servers, the [WoW] in-game communication or chat system [...] if such messages mention or advertise any commercial endeavor." In addition, the business is blocked from investing in any other business that are doing any of these things.

IGD Got Pwned!

As faithfully reported by Ben Duranske at Virtually Blind, this case is not setting precedent because it is a settlement. Still, this case will serve as a beacon of hope for those who hate the influence of gold farmers, power levelers, and others that make MMOs unfair to all those who log endless hours. Significant also is the enforcement of the terms of service - there has been much buzz about whether these terms of service contracts are contracts of adhesion (meaning, since the consumer is given no real choice about the terms of the contract, the contract may be void if the terms are too lop-sided), but at least for now, WoW's ToS stood up.