Sniper Elite studio Rebellion claims that Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion infringes on its trademark.
The byzantine glory of trademark law has once again reared its ugly head in the case of Rebellion Developments vs. Stardock Entertainment and Ironclad Games, a lawsuit that was actually filed back in June over the Sins of a Solar Empire standalone expansion Rebellion. Rebellion originally asked Stardock to stop using the name back in April, but Stardock refused, leading to the legal action.
The suit claims that the commonly-used shorthand for the game, including Stardock’s own description of it as simply Rebellion on its website and in promotional materials, could lead consumers to confuse it with the studio. In fact, Rebellion claimed it’s already happened at least once, citing a Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion video on YouTube with the description, “The developers over at Rebellion talks to us about what to expect from their newest game. As a tech rebel or a tech loyal, you will get to command legions of warships into a galactic space battle. Check out the video for more!”
Rebellion claims that Stardock’s use of the term is a violation of its trademark that has caused it “substantial harm, which cannot be remedied unless Defendants are enjoined from use of the ‘Rebellion’ trademark.” The suit calls for a trial by jury and seeks triple damages (the amount of which is to be determined at trial), plus legal fees, punitive damages, interest and whatever else the court figures it can throw onto the pile.
I’m in no position to judge the legal merits of Rebellion’s case, but on principle I find it a little uncomfortable. “Rebellion” is just a word, after all – kind of like, say, “edge” – and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is, by all appearances, about a rebellion. Concerns about the possible confusion of the studio with the game may very well be legitimate, but is this really the best – or even the only – way to go about resolving them?