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Ex-Game Maker Atari To Argue To The US PTO That Only It Can Make 'Haunted House' Games


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Ex-Game Maker Atari To Argue To The US PTO That Only It Can Make 'Haunted House' Games

 

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160420/10073234222/ex-game-maker-atari-to-argue-to-us-pto-that-only-it-can-make-haunted-house-games.shtml?utm_content=buffer63edb&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

We noted several years ago that Atari, once the king of the video game industry, has since devolved into a zombie company built only for intellectual property trolling. Copyright, trademark, or patents: Atari will use all of them to try to milk the modern gaming industry for cash. In fact, in past public statements, Atari has made it clear that it has no interest in producing any new games, instead relying on its remaining staff to license its trademarks and port a few decades-old games over to the mobile market. Quite a fall for the once giant of the industry. 

And that fall will now include going in front of the PTO's Appeal Board to explain why Atari and Atari alone should be allowed to title a game using the phrase "Haunted House." Why? Well, because it made a game called Haunted House in the early 80's, you see.

 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has set oral arguments for Atari’s claim against developer Hazy Dreams of Infinity over its use of “Haunted House” in the game Haunted House Tycoon. Atari and defendant Andrew Greenberg, Hazy Dreams founder, present oral arguments on Thursday. In 2011, Atari filed a “notice of opposition” against the Hazy Dreams in an effort to prevent the developer from launching the game, which is still in development. The classic-gaming publisher’s stance is that it owns that trademark in the gaming industry after releasing Haunted House in 1982 for the Atari 2600 console — although Atari did not file for that mark until 2010.

 

So Atari is going to bully a current game maker over a generic term it once used on a game it made over three decades ago, but didn't trademark until 2010. It's hard to think of an example that better shows how trademark law is abused today, deviating from its intended purpose and spirit. There's no customer confusion here to worry about. Nobody is going to mistake Atari's block graphics for the modern Haunted House Tycoon title. This is simply a bullying tactic, likely to generate licensing revenue. That's what Atari is now, after all. 

Greenberg, of course, isn't pleased.

 

“Trying to claim no one else can use the words ‘Haunted’ and ‘House’ is especially ridiculous, considering games have been using the term ‘Haunted House” in titles ever since Magnavox released a game by that name for the Odyssey in 1972,” he said in a statement. “Atari has a horrible reputation for attacking independent game developers, including recently going after TxK developer Jeff Minter,” the Hazy Dreams of Infinity president said.

 

That's true, of course, but the folks running Atari these days don't care about that reputation. It isn't the public that is making them money, after all.

 

All of this comes as Atari has lost much of its original identity. The company, which has shifted from owner to owner over time, filed for bankruptcy in 2013. It emerged later that year under the ownership of venture capitalist Frederic Chesnais, who says that company is now 10 people primarily responsible for managing its past assets.

 

Ten people working for a company designed to troll actual makers of gaming content, potentially successfully blocking the release of a game because it carries a fairly generic phrase in its title? Yeah, we've gotten so far away from the original purpose of trademark at this point that it's basically unrecognizable.

 

 

 

:lol: 

Brian Matherne - owner/curator of "The MOST comprehensive list of Atari VCS/2600 homebrews ever compiled." http://tiny.cc/Atari2600Homebrew

author of "The Atari 2600 Homebrew Companion" book series available on Amazon! www.amazon.com/author/brianmatherne

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I wonder if they'd ever share their "Haunted House" revenue with programmer James Andreasen?  B)

doubt it  ;)

Brian Matherne - owner/curator of "The MOST comprehensive list of Atari VCS/2600 homebrews ever compiled." http://tiny.cc/Atari2600Homebrew

author of "The Atari 2600 Homebrew Companion" book series available on Amazon! www.amazon.com/author/brianmatherne

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Here is Atari's registration for the "Haunted House" mark registered October, 2011: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4808:v827pw.2.23

 

and Greenberg's filing for the "Haunted House Tycoon" mark: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4808:v827pw.2.13

 

I would contest that "Haunted House" is a generic term. This is why the Sci-Fi channel changed its mark to Syfy as it's less generic, more identifiable, and can be defended. Companies like Nintendo, Google, Xerox, and Kleenex often publish "Kleenex Brand Tissues" for legal standing against a mark becoming a generic term. As marks such as "Google" and "Xerox" become verbs ubiquitously used in phrases such as "google this for me" or "xerox this document" they take a giant step towards becoming generic terms that can no longer be defended as exclusive.

 

I'm honestly surprised that the USPTO granted Atari's registration of the mark in 2011 as it is quite generic. If Atari petitioned the USPTO for exclusive rights to the word mark "Golf" in electronic games and computer software, it would almost certainly be denied on those grounds.

 

Does our dislike of Atari in it's current form constitute grounds to strip them of their rights and seize their intellectual property? No. Is "Haunted House" a generic term with respect to electronic media? If yes, then it would be generic for Greenberg's use as well.

 

Also, Greenberg makes no claim to the exclusive right to use "Haunted House" apart from the mark as shown "Haunted House Tycoon". When a registered mark is infringed upon, it must be defended or its registration can be revoked. As it stands with the USPTO's granting of "Haunted House" to Atari, "Haunted House Tycoon" would be no different than "Super Mario Bros. Tycoon". It's a live mark, and it's owner contends that it is being infringed upon.

 

That said, this "bullying" complaint is nonsense. On that logic the case could easily be made that Greenberg is "bullying" Atari out of their right to a mark that has been used in good faith for 35 years, and was legitimately petitioned and granted by the USPTO for Atari to have the exclusive right to the mark in electronic games and computer software. 

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Didn't Atari since publish Haunted House games on both Flashback, Wii and mobile platforms? Recall these classics:

 

https://www.atari.com/news/haunted-house-now-available-iphone-ipad-and-ipod-touch

 

http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/haunted-house-review/1900-6283386/

 

Clearly an IP that is prized and treated with all care by the rights holder.

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