Heroes of the Storm May Face Difficulties at EU Trademark Offices

Heroes of the Storm May Face Difficulties at EU Trademark Offices

Heroes of the Storm - Logo

Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's newly rebranded MOBA, shares a title with a previously published table-top RPG.

Last week, Blizzard changed the name of its upcoming MOBA, formerly titled Blizzard All-Stars, to Heroes of the Storm. The announcement was made in an adorable little teaser, which poked fun at the fact that Blizzard has already had to change the title once before.

However, while most of us were giggling at Blizzard's antics, Mike Pohjola was not. Mike is a game designer from Finland who recently released a table-top RPG called Heroes of the Storm - Sword of the Great King.

"I was surprised to find that Blizzard made a grab for the name, considering we've been using it for a year, and already have an existing published role-playing game," he told me in an email. "From my perspective this is a 'Goliath attacks David' story."

Trademark law can be incredibly complicated, but thankfully, most of us will never have to experience a David Vs. Goliath scenario in which Goliath is actually a team of highly paid lawyers. However, Mike Pohjola is one of the unlucky few.

"[Legal action] is a possibility, since obviously we can't both use the same name," he said. "Of course, the best case would be if Blizzard simply chose yet another working title for their game."

In lieu of Blizzard voluntarily relinquishing control of the Heroes of the Storm trademark, things could start to get a little messy for Pohjola. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Blizzard has already snagged the rights to Heroes of the Storm in the U.S. And the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market indicates that Blizzard owns the title in most of Europe as well. Pohjola, however, controls the Finnish trademark, and has a preexisting claim on the title, but protecting that claim could get very expensive.

The whole dispute is a little ironic, actually. The reason that Blizzard had to change the game's title in the first place was due to a lost battle with Valve over the Blizzard DOTA trademark. You'd think Blizzard would be a little more sensitive to stepping on other peoples' toes, when Valve just got done stepping on theirs.

Source: Mike Pohjola

Permalink

Okay, so there are two possibilities here.

Either Blizzard is so idiotic and lazy that they couldn't even be bothered to do a google search before (re)naming their game.

Now, while this seems plausible, giving some of their recent decisions, I cannot believe that their lawyers are that dumb too.

So that pretty much leaves us with option number two.

They are just being dicks being they can.

Wait... was HotS' working title ACTUALLY Blizzard DOTA? I am vaguely aware that this whole lane-pushing thing started with a Warcraft mod, but that's like learning that Sleeping Dogs was originally meant to be marketed under the title Activision Presents Grand Theft Auto in Asia.

The Random One:
Wait... was HotS' working title ACTUALLY Blizzard DOTA? I am vaguely aware that this whole lane-pushing thing started with a Warcraft mod, but that's like learning that Sleeping Dogs was originally meant to be marketed under the title Activision Presents Grand Theft Auto in Asia.

DoTA, since I've known it back when there was only one DoTA and it was actually called DoTA, was a genre. It wasn't until later after LoL and the like really started pickin up steam that they tried to invent the word MOBA to distance themselves from the original DoTA.

It was pretty common for someone to call LoL a DoTA game, not a MOBA, because the word MOBA didn't catch on for quite a long time.

It's why I was still horribly confused about the whole trademark issue in the first place. At the time of the original dispute, DoTA was synonymous with the genre. MOBA wasn't even a thing that people said. If you asked what MOBA they played, they'd look at you confused. If you asked them what DoTA you played, they'd tell you LoL, or HoN (is that what it was called?) or that they played DoTA.

How Blizzard didn't win that case is beyond me.

You know, if I was this guy I would be wringing my hands with glee, trying to figure out how much my copyright is worth to blizzard. If you're a small-fry RPG developer this could potentially fund his next few projects.

What was wrong with Blizzard Allstars? People have been using Allstars on various properties for years, you can't tell me that was copyrighted as well.

shintakie10:

The Random One:
Wait... was HotS' working title ACTUALLY Blizzard DOTA? I am vaguely aware that this whole lane-pushing thing started with a Warcraft mod, but that's like learning that Sleeping Dogs was originally meant to be marketed under the title Activision Presents Grand Theft Auto in Asia.

DoTA, since I've known it back when there was only one DoTA and it was actually called DoTA, was a genre. It wasn't until later after LoL and the like really started pickin up steam that they tried to invent the word MOBA to distance themselves from the original DoTA.

It was pretty common for someone to call LoL a DoTA game, not a MOBA, because the word MOBA didn't catch on for quite a long time.

It's why I was still horribly confused about the whole trademark issue in the first place. At the time of the original dispute, DoTA was synonymous with the genre. MOBA wasn't even a thing that people said. If you asked what MOBA they played, they'd look at you confused. If you asked them what DoTA you played, they'd tell you LoL, or HoN (is that what it was called?) or that they played DoTA.

How Blizzard didn't win that case is beyond me.

It was Valve who got the copyright by hiring the original Devs. They had a history of taking mods that hadn't been trademarked (Counterstrike, Team Fortress, Day of Defeat (maybe)), making them into full games, and then trademarking the titles. They had set precedent, which is really important in a court of law, and no one had challenged them before. There basically is no laws in regards to how copyright works for mods, so Blizzard decided to steer clear of that legal landmine.

It's gonna suck for the finnish guy if this ends up turning into a court battle as I don't see him winning if it takes place in any system where victory goes to whoever has the most cash at hand. Hopefully if it comes to that, it goes to court in a finnish one. Then maybe he has a chance... Either way best of luck to the poor guy.

Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

lancar:
Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

Then the Great Trademark Wars will begin and the bloody battlefield will not be in the forests, the grasslands, the mountains, the seas or even the deserts, but the gruesome places we know only as... the courts!

Or something like that.

Yeah it's a pretty crappy situation for the lil guy, something tells me Blizzard is pretty set on that name and will squash the guy like a bug in court if push came to shove. Maybe if he's lucky Blizzard's DOTA(I refused to use HOTS here since that's what I use for Heart of the Swarm, which on a separate note someone over in Blizzard's name making department is a idiot) and hopefully that'll bring extra attention to his game. Although if I was him and looking to sell my game outside of Finland, I would start thinking of new names right about now. Sucks I know but better then going broke trying and most likely failing to fight a giant.

lancar:
Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

You might have intended that as a joke, but it's actually a problem. Since names usually have to be fairly compact (1-4 words), there's only so many combinations, even more so once you consider that the vocabulary that can be used is also finite and limited in scope. We're running out of fantasy names for things and it's going to be a major issue...

Jandau:

lancar:
Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

You might have intended that as a joke, but it's actually a problem. Since names usually have to be fairly compact (1-4 words), there's only so many combinations, even more so once you consider that the vocabulary that can be used is also finite and limited in scope. We're running out of fantasy names for things and it's going to be a major issue...

In terms of trademark, it's not really a problem. Trademark has to be renewed, you have to defend it, etc. The rules for trademark actually make sense. You don't want to go to the store and buy something labeled "Coca-Cola" and have it not actually be Coke. Just because someone registered the mark for something doesn't mean they will have it forever. It's not like copyright.

Are you aware of actual cases involving fantasy names? I don't think a large number of them are trademarked. The main character and the name of the world maybe, but I don't think anyone's paying for and defending a trademark on Gnarle the Orc who helped the hero get the sword of Traflgarling or whatever.

OT, trademarks don't give you complete control of a word. They only give you control of a word in connection with a particular type of product. Does this guy own the mark for computer games or just the physical game? Are these considered the same category in Finland? If he does actually have a paid for and well defended trademark for computer programs he should have no difficulty winning in court. I'm not familiar with any trademark cases where someone with a valid mark was steamrolled by a big corporation. I have read cases where a judge simply threw out a case in favor of the little guy since the trademark was obviously valid.

There are two obvious resolutions to this story. The trademarks are actually not related since one is for a physical game and another is for a computer game. In that case, the guy was just trying to get publicity for his game. Otherwise, he'll be settling outside of court for an undisclosed amount - an amount that's probably more than he would have ever received from selling his game.

bringer of illumination:
Okay, so there are two possibilities here.

Either Blizzard is so idiotic and lazy that they couldn't even be bothered to do a google search before (re)naming their game.

Now, while this seems plausible, giving some of their recent decisions, I cannot believe that their lawyers are that dumb too.

So that pretty much leaves us with option number two.

They are just being dicks being they can.

The fact that someone owns a trademark for a table-top RPG only in Finland is reason to not use the name for a game that has the potential to make millions internationally? Sorry, that's not "being dicks". They have either decided that there is no actual conflict in the name or they're pretty sure they can either buy the trademark from the guy or simply license it in Finland. I don't think either side is really all that worried about there being confusion between a MOBA and a table-top RPG about elves in a forest or whatever.

Clovus:

bringer of illumination:
Okay, so there are two possibilities here.

Either Blizzard is so idiotic and lazy that they couldn't even be bothered to do a google search before (re)naming their game.

Now, while this seems plausible, giving some of their recent decisions, I cannot believe that their lawyers are that dumb too.

So that pretty much leaves us with option number two.

They are just being dicks being they can.

The fact that someone owns a trademark for a table-top RPG only in Finland is reason to not use the name for a game that has the potential to make millions internationally? Sorry, that's not "being dicks". They have either decided that there is no actual conflict in the name or they're pretty sure they can either buy the trademark from the guy or simply license it in Finland. I don't think either side is really all that worried about there being confusion between a MOBA and a table-top RPG about elves in a forest or whatever.

Yeah, because it's not like they could've, you know, contacted the guy beforehand or anything to explain the situation or make a deal or anything.

No, clearly it's better to just take the name and hope he doesn't say anything.

Look, this isn't hard, there is no reason or excuse for this course of action what so ever, it would have taken all of five minutes for Blizzard, which is a multi-billion dollar corporation which has more than enough employees for this sort of thing, to do this the right way, and they just fucking didn't.

You know, being from Scandinavia I can tell you that their products aren't any less popular here than they are in America, gaming is fucking huge here, and Blizzard products in particular with Warcraft III and Diablo II lan-parties being formative parts of my and many other people's childhoods.

So if I had created a product, I would probably not be too thrilled with the prospect of one of the biggest gaming companies just plopping a product with the same name down that removed any chance of my product ever showing up on google for anyone ever again. He literally has no fucking chance to market his product anymore.

Just because he lives in Finland doesn't mean that his livelihood doesn't matter.

Frankly, it doesn't even matter if the issue goes to court in Finland and he wins, Blizzard has already crushed him, the internet is extremely important in RPG circles, and no on is ever going to find his product on the internet again.

Again, they're just. being. dicks.

Also, I'm getting this weird vibe from your post, it almost seems like you're implying that Heroes of the Storm is the only name that this game could have had and that Blizzard just HAD to take it or else the game wouldn't make any money.

bringer of illumination:
Yeah, because it's not like they could've, you know, contacted the guy beforehand or anything to explain the situation or make a deal or anything.

No, clearly it's better to just take the name and hope he doesn't say anything.

Look, this isn't hard, there is no reason or excuse for this course of action what so ever, it would have taken all of five minutes for Blizzard, which is a multi-billion dollar corporation which has more than enough employees for this sort of thing, to do this the right way, and they just fucking didn't.

Or maybe they didn't see a conflict because of the actual trademark laws involved.

So if I had created a product, I would probably not be too thrilled with the prospect of one of the biggest gaming companies just plopping a product with the same name down that removed any chance of my product ever showing up on google for anyone ever again. He literally has no fucking chance to market his product anymore.

Just because he lives in Finland doesn't mean that his livelihood doesn't matter.

Frankly, it doesn't even matter if the issue goes to court in Finland and he wins, Blizzard has already crushed him, the internet is extremely important in RPG circles, and no on is ever going to find his product on the internet again.

Again, they're just. being. dicks.

I agree that there's not much positive here for him, unless he does have a legitimate case. Then he's in line for a licensing deal that could be pretty awesome.

The marketing claim is just nonsense though, unless he was planning on making a video game version. Are you saying that someone who was interested in his RPG wouldn't be able to find it on Google once Blizzard's product was there? Searching the full title wouldn't work? Adding "table top" or other names wouldn't work? If someone was interested in the product, I'm sure they could find it. Is the "the internet is extremely important in RPG circles" true at the same time that apparently these RPG circles can't perform basic searches in google? Do you really imagine a person interested in the game would do a search on "Heroes of the Storm", see a page filled Blizzard stuff, and just decide the RPG didn't exist? Like, they can't type the guy's name, the business name, the full title of the product, the name of characters, words related to table top gaming, etc. Will the google results somehow stop people on RPG forums and websites from linking to his game? Seriously, this argument is crazy.

Also, I'm getting this weird vibe from your post, it almost seems like you're implying that Heroes of the Storm is the only name that this game could have had and that Blizzard just HAD to take it or else the game wouldn't make any money.

No, but that's the name they've decided on. Names are important though, and I think this was an improvement on "All Stars". I just don't think there's a real trademark issue here, or, if there is, it will get resolved pretty easily. The idea that you can't use the phrase since it is only trademarked in one market is a bit odd. If this case involved a small table-top RPG company in the US and the evil corp was Ubisoft I would still feel the same. If the RPG company planned on an international product, they should have applied for a trademark in a few big international markets.

I would say that Blizzard could start making some real dick moves going forward though. If this guy has a real case, and they actually do abuse their power to delay things and make it cost more than the guy can afford, then I'd gladly accept that Blizzard is doing something wrong. But, nothing like that has happened yet.

Blizzard details:

Trade mark name : HEROES OF THE STORM
Trade mark No : 012170791
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 25/09/2013
Number of results: 1 of 1

Finnish guys details:

Application number: T201350650
Status: Application pending.
Mark: Heroes of the Storm
Application date: 04.10.2013
Applicant: POHJOLA, MIKKO, Helsinki, FI
Representative: Leitzinger Oy

Seems pretty open and shut, this isn't a big evil company flexing it's financial muscles, it's a guy who filed his trademark application too late.

EDIT: Can't figure out the YouTube links, so here's a URL link.

Linky

I feel that this is appropriate.

Hooopy:
Blizzard details:

Trade mark name : HEROES OF THE STORM
Trade mark No : 012170791
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 25/09/2013
Number of results: 1 of 1

Finnish guys details:

Application number: T201350650
Status: Application pending.
Mark: Heroes of the Storm
Application date: 04.10.2013
Applicant: POHJOLA, MIKKO, Helsinki, FI
Representative: Leitzinger Oy

Seems pretty open and shut, this isn't a big evil company flexing it's financial muscles, it's a guy who filed his trademark application too late.

Is the "04.10.2013" respresenting April 10th 2013, or October 4th 2013?

Is the "04.10.2013" respresenting April 10th 2013, or October 4th 2013?

Finland use day/month/year as far as I can see, so according to the above info it would be after the blizz one.

Not saying he didn't have it first, he just didn't file until after blizz had so he's going to have an uphill battle if he wants to fight it.

[edit for terrible mobile phone post]

Pretty soon we will run out of good 1-4 word titles and have to switch to more stupid titles such as "Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold" or some silly shit.

Hooopy:

Is the "04.10.2013" respresenting April 10th 2013, or October 4th 2013?

Finland use day/month/year as far as I can see, so according to the above info it would be after the blizz one.

Not saying he didn't have it first, he just didn't file until after blizz had so he's going to have an uphill battle if he wants to fight it.

[edit for terrible mobile phone post]

The guy filed a trademark as a response to Blizzard trademarking the name he had been using for over a year.

Anyway, according to European Trademark law the trademark goes to the first that used the name and was officialy making a product using it. And as Blizzard started the whole renaming business in 2013 and this guy used the name already in 2012 it goes to him. This will be an even battle as money does not hold power over law as incredibly much that they do in the U.S.

Halyah:

lancar:
Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

Then the Great Trademark Wars will begin and the bloody battlefield will not be in the forests, the grasslands, the mountains, the seas or even the deserts, but the gruesome places we know only as... the courts!

Or something like that.

That's actually pretty funny to think about.

Now, while I do think that Pohjola's totally in the right here and shouldn't have to rename his product... unless he somehow manages to work out the best deal ever with Blizzard, chances are he's gonna be renaming his product soon. If Blizzard's already trademarked Heroes of the Storm here in the US, they're certainly not gonna consider a name change just to appease one country, and they have the money and lawyers to stall out Pohjola's case.

It sucks, but honestly, not much you can do when a company as big as Blizzard decides to steamroll through without some quick Google checking.

ThunderCavalier:

Halyah:

lancar:
Pretty soon there's be no names left to call stuff, because everything will have already been trademarked.

Then the Great Trademark Wars will begin and the bloody battlefield will not be in the forests, the grasslands, the mountains, the seas or even the deserts, but the gruesome places we know only as... the courts!

Or something like that.

That's actually pretty funny to think about.

Now, while I do think that Pohjola's totally in the right here and shouldn't have to rename his product... unless he somehow manages to work out the best deal ever with Blizzard, chances are he's gonna be renaming his product soon. If Blizzard's already trademarked Heroes of the Storm here in the US, they're certainly not gonna consider a name change just to appease one country, and they have the money and lawyers to stall out Pohjola's case.

It sucks, but honestly, not much you can do when a company as big as Blizzard decides to steamroll through without some quick Google checking.

That last sentence makes it sound like the systems involved need a big overhaul if all thats needed for victory is being big enough.

Halyah:
That last sentence makes it sound like the systems involved need a big overhaul if all thats needed for victory is being big enough.

It's a gross simplification, but big companies stalling cases to their favor isn't exactly an uncommon practice.

 

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