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:
It's official – Wizards of the Coast's legal department has had our Kickstarter Page taken down. Any bets as to how long this will last?
— Sunstone Games (@SunstoneGames) March 21, 2013
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.