Indie Developers Change Game Name Over Bethesda Trademark Dispute
On May 1st, 2017, No Matter Studios announced that they changed the name of their game “Prey for the Gods” to “Praey for the Gods” after a trademark dispute with Bethesda. No Matter Studios, a team of three game developers, created a game originally entitled “Prey for the Gods,” which is an action-adventure survival game set on a frozen island. Bethesda’s game “Prey,” released on May 5, 2017, is a first person shooter video game set in a space station. While the premises are very different, Bethesda was concerned that if they didn’t take action they would face a series of trademark issues down the line. Pete Hines of Bethesda went on to Twitter to explain that “we really didn’t have much of a choice,” and that if they didn’t oppose the trademark they would “risk losing [their] Prey trademark.”
No Matter’s statement regarding the dispute explained that “something like a trademark opposition can be long and depending on how far someone wants to fight it can be very expensive.” The studio explained that they didn’t want to spend Kickstarter money on a legal battle, nor raise further money to fight the dispute. While the company applied for trademarks in 2015 for both Prey for the Gods and Præy for the Gods, Bethesda opposed the application for both due to the fact that they were too similar to their title Prey. The agreement resulted in No Matter being able to use a logo incorporating the words Prey For the Gods, where the “e” in Prey looks like a woman praying. However, the studio still must use Praey for the Gods when the title is written out.
There have been a number of instances where gaming companies have used trademarks to lock down common words and take legal action to intimidate those who try to use them. Bethesda themselves have had a number of legal disputes concerning such trademarks. For example, in 2015, a Youtuber named “CaptainSparklerz” along with BluBox Games was forced to change the name of their game after their title Fortress Fallout was deemed to be too similar to Bethesda’s popular Fallout franchise. Prior to that, Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, settled with Bethesda in 2012 after a dispute over Mojang’s game Scrolls, which Bethesda claimed was too similar to the name of their series The Elder Scrolls. While the settlement still allowed Mojang to develop and publish the game, Mojang gave up on the right to trademark Scrolls. While trademark law often requires lawsuits to maintain ownership of a name, this becomes problematic when the trademark is only one or two common words.
This case is an example of some of the more extreme outcomes that arise from games with such common titles. These disputes are often at the expense of smaller indie development companies, which lack resources to fight protracted trademark battles.
Additional Research By: Rachel Johns