Game developers have to protect their trademarks, and that usually means sending out polite letters informing them that a title they’re using for their game might be infringing upon existing trademarks.
Recently, the one-man studio Dan Games received a letter from inXile, the makers of Wasteland 2, who claim that his budget title Alien Wasteland is infringing upon their “Wasteland” trademark. Dan Games refused to change the name of his title, which has been available since June 2015. As such, inXile sent him a cease and desist letter.
“Because both games have almost nothing in common and no case of confusion was ever reported for almost two years since my game was first announced, I have been calmly explaining through long emails why we should have no worries about this,” wrote Devdan in a Steam update. “But I finally ended up receiving a cease and desist letter from their lawyer asking to either stop using “wasteland” or to prepare facing legal actions against me.”
inXile has also made the allegations public, stating that Dan Games had offered to change the name only if inXile paid him money to change it. Posting on the company’s forums, InXile associate producer Thomas Beekers wrote:
We reached out to the developer of The Alien Wasteland (now Action Alien) directly looking to find an amicable resolution without involving lawyers. The C&D only happened because the developer was unwilling to recognize the issue, only offering to change the game’s name if we paid him for it. Asking to be paid for infringing on someone’s rights is certainly a new one for us, so of course we refused.
We do not know if the developer of Action Alien was aware of our Registered trademark when he initially named his game and bear absolutely no ill will towards the creator of Action Alien or the game. We always look for amicable win-win solutions in these cases, where we seek to protect our mark as any prudent business would do, while also helping the other party promote their game and provide a bigger reach than he otherwise would get, so that both parties benefit. In fact, that offer still stands now.
Another developer, Eric Schwarz, clarified that the studio would have offered to give the game some friendly promotion in exchange for reaching an amicable solution.
Trademark infringement is a commonplace issue in the game industry. Mojang, the makers of Minecraft, were previously served with a lawsuit by Zenimax over their use of the name “Scrolls,” a game that has since been canceled. To clarify, the lawsuit had nothing to do with the game’s commercial failure.