WotC Wins "Dungeon" Trade Mark Case

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
This is interesting. It's a bit beyond my pay grade in terms of IP law expertise.


Basically, a German company applied for the trademark "DUNGEON" regarding a (I assume video?) game. WotC objected because it was similar to Dungeons & Dragons (I assume WoTC also owns a trademark for DUNGEON magazine).

It got appealed, but the appear failed. Interestingly, one of the factors for this was that games and video games were once niche, but are now mainstream.

I should think there are folks on this forum with a much stronger grasp of the concepts involved than me.
 
Odd, considering that the game series Dungeons has apparently been around since 2010 and is currently on its third release. I feel like there's more going on than just the name similarity, considering that the game itself appears to have a ton of satire towards a bunch of existing IPs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Odd, considering that the game series Dungeons has apparently been around since 2010 and is currently on its third release. I feel like there's more going on than just the name similarity, considering that the game itself appears to have a ton of satire towards a bunch of existing IPs.
While realizing this is trademark rather than copyright, I wonder if it's in fact that satire they're trying to avoid. Satire is usually exempt from copyright laws in Canada and the US but I'm not sure about Europe.
 

lkj

Adventurer
While realizing this is trademark rather than copyright, I wonder if it's in fact that satire they're trying to avoid. Satire is usually exempt from copyright laws in Canada and the US but I'm not sure about Europe.
<accidental post in wrong thread>
 

ninjayeti

Explorer
The important bit to understand about trademarks is that they exist to protect consumers – if you buy a Rolex watch or Air Jordan kicks the trademark means you can be confident (at lest in theory) of the source of the products. (This is a major distinction from copyrights and patents which exist to protect creators/inventors.)

So the main issue here is if consumers are likely to be confused and wrongly think a game called “Dungeon” is related to Dungeons and Dragons. The courts looked at the various factors that bear on this (similarity of the marks, knowledge of the relevant consumers, how the products are sold, etc.). As Morrus notes, the most interesting part is the court’s finding that the games, although once sold to specialized markets, are now mainstream and widely available. Apparently the court has read some of those articles about how popular D&D has become!

KMG also argued that “Dungeons and Dragons” was not distinctive enough to deserve protection as a trademark but essentially just describes of the game. (Descriptive terms get little or no protection; e.g. you probably couldn’t trademark “dungeon crawler” because it describes a particular type of game.) KMG seemed to rely on the fact that many other games use the term “dungeon” or “dragon.” The court found the existence of these other games was irrelevant, and that looking at the specific products covered by the mark it was more than just descriptive.

The author of the linked post worries this is a broad ruling which could potentially lead to Wizards blocking any games from using the words “dungeon” or “dragons.” That seems unlikely.* The name “Dungeon” standing alone would seem to raise very different considerations than a more specific name like say “Darkest Dungeon” or “Dragon Age.” Indeed, I’d be more worried about the potential for abuse in giving KMG a trademark to the very broad “Dungeon.”

Its also worth noting that this is just a finding that KMG isn’t entitled to this trademark – it is not a ruling that any of their games have infringed WotC’s trademark.

*Disclaimer: this is a "hot take" not legal advice!
 

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