CD Projekt Red Issues Trademark Strike For Board Game With A Cyberpunk Theme On Itch.io

from the seeing-red dept

Way back in 2017, years before CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077 in a poor enough state so as to kickoff lawsuits from investors and a shitstorm of criticism by the public, we discussed how CDPR had acquired the US trademark for “Cyberpunk” in its licensing arrangements and then applied for a mark on the same term in the EU. The problem, of course, is that “cyberpunk” isn’t just the name of a series of tabletop and video games, but also the name of a broad genre of fiction. These are trademarks that should never have been granted, as they are akin to getting a trademark on something like “True Crime”. Plenty of folks in American and the EU cried foul over this, leading to CDPR putting out a statement that, among other things, noted that the company is not a trademark bully and would not be aggressive in enforcing the mark for unrelated projects in the cyberpunk genre. Pay special attention to the tweet from CDPR below in the section headed “What does it mean that CD Projekt owns the trademark for “Cyberpunk”?

That’s a pretty clear commitment that CDPR wouldn’t prevent others from creating games or content in the cyberpunk genre, right? Well, intentionally or not, it appears that CDPR did not keep to this commitment, as at least one indie tabletop game developer on Itch.io has now had a trademark claim issued against his game, which has nothing to do with Cyberpunk 2077 and is instead just a game in the cyberpunk genre.

In a post published on Twitter recently, user and game developer Ethan H. Reynolds has struck out against CD Projekt Red, the studio behind Cyberpunk 2077, after their own game, Neon Nights, was issued with a trademark strike. The strike claims that Reynolds’ game, specifically the artwork, is alleged to be “violating rights” despite the fact that their game is not related in any way to Cyberpunk. Reynolds says in their tweet that this could be down to a corporate bot that simply scans for the word “cyberpunk” despite the fact that, according to the tweet, the word can relate to a genre as well as a specific game name.

That’s simply not an excuse that works. Not in general and most certainly not in this case, with CDPR having publicly stated that its mark wouldn’t be used in this way. If it really was some bot that saw the description of the game and struck out due to it being in the cyberpunk genre, that really isn’t any better. The end result is still the same: CDPR is enforcing its trademark in a way that is impeding the ability of others to create content in the cyberpunk genre.

If I had to guess, I would agree with Reynolds that an automated system is likely the culprit here. But that too is on CDPR for using that system. And Reynolds is rightly pissed.

The indie developer goes on to say that they have tried to support CD Projekt Red in the past, particularly when it comes to their games, but now says “no more” to defending the company. It does seem as though this could be a case of mistaken identity. According to the game’s page on Itch.io, Neon Nights is a tabletop role-playing game that just happens to have a “cyberpunk/dystopian” theme, and is not related to CDPR’s title.

And who can blame him for being angry? Why should fellow creatives have to navigate trademark claims against their projects just because CDPR insisted on getting a trademark for a generic name of an entire genre of fiction? Why should anyone look kindly on the company that promised this wouldn’t happen only to let it happen anyway?

And, since it failed to keep that promise, why shouldn’t we start asking once again why this trademark was applied for and approved in the first place?

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Companies: cd projekt red, itch.io

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Comments on “CD Projekt Red Issues Trademark Strike For Board Game With A Cyberpunk Theme On Itch.io”

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24 Comments
That One Guysays:

Whether you belt someone in the face on accident or on purpose you still punched them so whether or not this was ‘just’ a bot(which itself would be questionable after their ‘we won’t be using this trademark against people’ claim) unless they want yet more bad Cyberpunk news CDPR needs to get on this immediately and make clear that accident or not it will not happen again and then follow through with that.

Anonymoussays:

Always fun watching once adored smaller video game companies go through the process of releasing a money grab or two, becoming litigious, and then selling for a boatload of cash to one of a handful of companies. Sony should buy it and make The Witcher 4 a PS4 exclusive to get one over on Microsoft for buying Bethesda’s parent company and making their games XBOX/PC exclusive.

Anonmyloussays:

Correction?

Reading Ethan’s Twitter feed, the Trademark claim was against his artwork, not the game itself. His artwork hosted on Redbubble is where the claim came from, not his game on Itch.io. And that makes this worse, not better, because the only thing in the artwork they can claim TM against IS the word Cyberpunk, which is used as a descriptor of the game setting/genre. This really was a bad Trademark and never should have been issued for exactly this reason.

XcOM987says:

Supposed Defence

According to CDPR they claim that the trademark claim was made due to them using the trademark in their tags, now to me this is a grey area if true because they have indeed used someone’s trademark, but on the other hand it’s no different to putting in the listing "If you like Cyberpunk 2077 you’ll like xyz" really.

Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with using it in the tags as your unlikely to cause confusion and it’s only a way to attract people that maybe interested in CP2077

digitalcoyotesays:

No Attempt to Research the Term

Whoever approved this must have not known what cyberpunk is and made no attempt to research it at all. A quick search will bring up the work that the game is based on (the Cyberpunk tabletop rpg). Looking just a ways down for the term though, you can find it was mentioned by the Washington Post in 1984 – 4 years before the first edition of the tabletop rpg. This seems acceptable evidence that the term was generally in use for the "movement".

I found all of that in about 5 minutes.

Bobvioussays:

On the subject of legal stuff (bullying in this case)

Red Bull in trademark dispute with English gin firm Bullards https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-58607923

Norwich-based Bullards was told there was a "likelihood of confusion on behalf of the public" as both brand names "include the term bull".
…………

In 2013, Red Bull threatened the brewery Redwell Brewing in Norwich with legal action due to its name starting with ‘Red’ and ending with ‘ll’, before apparently backing down, saying there was "no dispute".

Better sue The Matrix over Red Pill.

I know where the bovine output is coming from in this case.

M.A.S.H nails it, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP6LRwE-U-A

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Yes. They should have gotten on this already, before Timothy had time to write anything about it. He could have been writing instead about how CDPR really stepped up right away to communicate and be cool and retract any trademark strike or threat, and how they then slapped the infringe-o-bot detection system and sent it to bed without supper.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

and how they then slapped the infringe-o-bot detection system and sent it to bed without supper.

Or maybe: how they took a look, realized that trademark should never have been issue, and is a source of bad PR (among other things), and that they’re looking into (or already have) releasing that mark, and registering more specific/uniqe to their games mark(s).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Supposed Defence

The update on the original article states they were using the full ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ trademark in their posts rather than just Cyberpunk.

Though it’s hard to tell whether this was a valid request or not as there isn’t much info to go on – both the Techdirt and the original articles lack any details and the dev in question seems to have deleted their initial tweets and also looks like there might also be some copyright issues around some of the artwork they have been using (again not that clear and the dev like most people could just be confused between copyright and trademark).

So I’m surprised Techdirt reported on this without looking into to seeing exactly what happened?

Sledgesays:

Re:

From the news article linked:

UPDATE 9/17: CD Projekt Red has responded to Ethan Reynolds’ claims, clarifying that the reason why it issued the trademark strike was because Reynolds was allegedly using the Cyberpunk 2077 tag to promote Neon Nights.

"The reason why our legal team reacted was because of the Cyberpunk 2077 trademark was being used (in the tags) to sell unrelated products. This information was also included in the original email you received and partially quoted."

Bobvioussays:

Re: Re: Re: 2077

Because 2077 would be 100 years after William Gibson started actively writing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gibson.

In 1977, facing first-time parenthood and an absolute lack of enthusiasm for anything like "career," I found myself dusting off my twelve-year-old’s interest in science fiction. Simultaneously, weird noises were heard from New York and London. I took Punk to be the detonation of some slow-fused projectile buried deep in society’s flank a decade earlier, and I took it to be, somehow, a sign. And I began, then, to write.

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