Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark Infringement Claim

March 21, 2013 -

Update: Sunstone Games owner Simon Strange told GamePolitics this afternoon that legal counsel for Wizards of the Coast contacted him way back in December of last year to complain that "Kaiju Combat" was an infringement of its trademark "KAIJUDO."

After that one initial exchange, Strange claims that WotC kept quiet on the matter until March 20 when it sent an e-mail to Kickstarter asking that the crowd funding campaigns for Kaiju Combat be taken down because it infringed on its intellectual property. Kickstarter complied with the request, informed backers, and passed the original complaint email to Strange.

Strange acknowledges that trademark owners have to defend their owned trademarks or they run the risk of losing them.

"I understand how trademark issues work - if you take out a trademark you need to be proactive about protecting it, or you run the risk of losing it," he told us in an email. "So I initially interpreted the message as a lawyer being thorough and covering their client's trademark. Obnoxious, but not something I needed to get upset about or talk about in public."

It wasn't until the Kickstarter campaigns were suspended that Strange became upset.

"But when Kickstarter sent out those e-mails, I got literally 100s of frantic questions from backers / people on the forums / etc asking about the status of the game," he continued. "That sort of crossed the line from 'unfortunate legal hurdles' to 'actual development impediment.' And so this time around I put out some public statements about the situation."

Strange goes on to say that he seriously doubts that the "real people" (not the lawyers handling trademarks and copyrights) working on Kaijudo at WotC are threatened by Kaiju Combat, and that a legal precedent needs to be set so that WotC can't stop other developers from using the word "Kaiju" in the title of a game.

By the same token, Strange is concerned that fighting WotC in court will take money away from what's important - developing the games:

"Obviously we can't afford to spend our very limited development budget, which was provided by our backers on Kickstarter, on fighting over a name,"" He says. "But at the same time it would really make me sad if we're forced to change our name just because we can't afford to defend ourselves. I'm still hopeful that it won't come to that."

Original Story: If you backed the Kickstarter for Sunstone Games' monster fighting game Kaiju Combat, you have likely received an email from Kickstarter informing you that the campaign has been suspended due to a trademark infringement dispute.

If you happen to visit the Kickstarter page for Kaiju Combat you will be met with the following message:

Kaiju Combat - Giant Monsters. Awesome Fighting. Online. is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.

So who is accusing Sunstone Games of violating its trademarks / copyrights? If you believe this forum post from Sunstone Games owner Simon Strange, Wizards of the Coast. Strange wrote the following message to fans of the upcoming monster fighting game yesterday on the game's official forums:

Well, any of you who backed the Kickstarter project may have received an e-mail telling you that the Kaiju Combat project is in legal dispute.

Wizards of the Coast asked Kickstarter to shut down the pages, as part of their claim that Kaiju Combat infringes on their trademark of the word "KAIJUDO" - which is a card game / cartoon they own, for which they have also secured video game rights.

My lawyer responded to them this past December, taking the following legal stance:

1 - "Kaiju" is an ordinary word, being used in its ordinary context. The copyright of "KAIJUDO" cannot extend to the word "Kaiju."

I'll be following up this latest turn of events ASAP. Please don't fret.

He also tweeted the following message to followers:

 

We reached out to both Wizards of the Coast and Sunstone Games prior to the publication of this story but have yet to receive a response from either company. We also do not know if these claims from Wizards of the Coast extend beyond Kickstarter to other realms, like the District Court in Seattle, Washington. We'll update the story when (or if) they respond.

You can learn more about the game in question here or check out the original Kickstarter pitch video to your left.

In case you didn't know, Simon Strange is a 15-year veteran of the video game industry has worked on over 20 console titles including three Godzilla titles, Rampage: Total Destruction, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Army of 2, Tony Hawk, the Deadliest Warrior series, and many more.


Comments

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Since Wizards of the coast felt they had to do this, I wonder how well that Kaijudo game is really selling. Usually as soon as I see an anime for kids on any TV network I tend to go "I bet this is marketing for a card game"

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

So on March 20th, WotC sent the takedown request to Kickstarter. Know what also happened on March 20th? They announced that Kaijudo would be on PAX East this weekend. Coincidence?

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Actually, I think WotC's contesting of the name might be more technically accurate than you guys are giving it.

Kaiju = big monster

-do = suffix meaning "the way", often in reference to martial arts styles in Japanese: Judo, kendo, iado, aikido.

So "Kaijudo" could loosely translate to "the way of giant monster combat" or....Kaiju Combat.

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Lucky for Kaiju Combat, trademarks don't work that way. When you get a trademark, you don't get a trademark on the definition of the term, just the term itself. Under your concept, I could trademark the phrase "Pushing up Daisies" and be able to block any one from using any other term that means death. So if you want to name your game "Bought the Farm" or "Kick the Bucket" too bad.

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Technically, "Kaijudo" would "loosely" translate to "the way of [using] giant monsters [to fight]", which is different from giant monsters themselves fighting independently. You know, the same way "judo" would be "the way of fighting gently", not "gentlemen fighting", and "kendo" would be "the way of [using] the sword [to fight]", not "the way of swords fighting each other".

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Well for all I know the monsters have human controllers. But what matters it might be close enough for a judge or jury to rule against Kaiju Combat and not be entirely wrong. I doubt an American company like WotC was going for strict grammatical accuracy but I do think they're trying to evoke that usage. It's not, as other people were saying, just a random suffix attached to the word "kaiju".

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Trademarks apply only to certain classes of goods and services within a specific class in order to avoid "confusion in the market place."  I checked on the USPTO site and Wizards does not have their TM registered in International Class 09 (that applies to video games).  As a result, their claim is overreaching.  These guys probably should have had a lawyer respond to the original Cease and Desist Demand they got instead of just expecting it to go away.  It may well have avoided this mess...See, not all lawyers are bad guys! :P

Tom B

Thomas H. Buscaglia, Esquire

The Game Attorney

206-463-9200

Skype/Twitter - thombusc

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Thank you for clarifying, Tom

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiju

Analyzing the use of the word, this is a pretty tough case to win because it is pretty commonly used. On the other hand a small studio having to fight this in court could be damaged badly just by the cost.

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

So what, companies can just add "-do" to a word and use it as a name, then harass anyone who uses the regular word in a name? That's bullshit.

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

I hereby claim trademark to the word 'thedo'.  You can pay me royalties for using 'the' in any sentence.

(I agree that this is stupid.)

- Left4Dead Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

If that's true, that's even dumber than Zenimax's claim of the word "scrolls."

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Doesn't seem to stop lawyers though, does it?

Re: Kaiju Combat Kickstarter Suspended Over Trademark ...

Unfortunately no.
It's days like these that make me loose my faith in humanity.
Better go find something to cheer myself up.
 

"If you really want to enslave people, tell them you are going to give them Total Freedom." - L. Ron Hubbard
 
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