For many young people, video games were a huge part of their formative years, and continue to be a hobby in their adult lives. While the more curmudgeonly can debate the merits of kids spending hours on video games, it's hard to deny how much fun they can be. What started for most of us as a reddish blob purported to be a plumber has now developed into ever more lifelike games with entire communities surrounding them. Video games are now a huge industry, with studios spending millions developing some of the largest titles. Given the investment, one company's trademark snafu could force them to restart at the last checkpoint.
One of Blizzard Entertainment's trademark applications, related to its upcoming release, has been suspended by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The game, which is entitled Overwatch, apparrently shares a name with an app created by an airsoft and paintball company known as Innovis Labs. The Innovis creation claims to give users a map of the battlefield, as it were (it IS paintball), as well as the ability to control your team and see the location of your opponents through GPS. While it is not necessarily uncommon for this issue to occur, an error on the part of the attorney reviewing the application seems to have compounded the matter.
In its suspention letter, the USPTO notes that "rather than issue the noted Office Action, the trademark examining attorney should have suspended the application," while going on to say, "The examining attorney apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the issuance of said Action." Given that both the Blizzard game and the Innovis app are forms of digital entertainment, there may not be enough difference for both to maintain the mark. As it stands, Innovis has received a notice of allowance, and the company will need to file a statement of use or extension request by mid-February.
Blizzard, best known in the gaming community for the Starcraft, Warcraft, and Diablo games, would seem to find themselves a bit of a bind in regards to the name of their newest game. The company announced Overwatch, a team-based first person shooter, at their annual Blizzcon in November. And while the current situation is not their fault, they are nevertheless left to figure out their next step. The company could seek to acquire Innovis Labs or at least the name Overwatch, or go about rebranding their creation. Regardless of which course Blizzard chooses, it will likely damage the brand surrounding their newest game before it even hits shelves.