Ironclad Games and publisher Stardock Entertainment are free to use the word "rebellion" in the name of its latest real-time strategy game (Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion) because it is protected by the First Amendment, a U.S. judge ruled last month. The news of the ruling was revealed by Ironclad co-owner Blair Fraser in a forum post celebrating the victory – as reported on by Polygon.
Rebellion Developments filed a lawsuit against Stardock Entertainment and Ironclad Games in 2012, alleging that its "unauthorized" use of the word infringed on the its trademark and could "cause confusion" and "deceive purchasers."
But in early May, U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts granted the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss, concluding that the use of the word "is expressive speech and is protected under the First Amendment."
In a post on the game's forums this week, Ironclad co-owner Blair Fraser explained why this court ruling matters to other game developers and publishers:
"This judgment is an important result for anyone developing games and for the gaming community as a whole," Fraser wrote. "First, it reaffirms that video games are protected by the First Amendment. Second, it establishes that artistically relevant video game names are also protected by the First Amendment so long as the name isn't explicitly misleading about the content of the game or who created it. Finally, it demonstrates that a First Amendment defense of a video game can be successfully applied to a motion to dismiss thus 'preventing a chilling effect on speech.' This last point is particularly important to smaller developers who cannot afford to enter a lengthy and expensive court battle. We are very proud that this judgment could help others in the future."
You can read the ruling here (PDF).
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is available on Steam.