Video Game Law Blog

September 19, 2006

This isn't breaking news, but it's an interesting issue that recently came to our attention. On-line gamers often create what are called 'clans"? or 'guilds"? "? namely, groups of players who game together, and who may have defined goals, rules, etc. (see the Wikipedia entry here ). One large, long-standing guild has gone so far as to register its name ('The Syndicate"?) and its logo as US trade-marks (see US registrations 3,027,852 and 3,027,530). Both marks are registered in association with 'entertainment services, namely, an online gaming guild providing in-game opportunities for proliferating game expertise and camaraderie among games supported by a web site featuring multimedia materials"?.

This is interesting for at least two reasons. First, it shows how on-line communities are beginning to act like many other real-world associations and entities. Second, The Syndicate explains that it registered the trade-marks in order to protect its reputation (most of which is based on in-game activities). Admittedly, the Syndicate guild is a particularly active and well-established one, and is involved in various real-world activities such as contributing to game development books, creating game guides, holding annual conventions, etc. Still, the fact that it decided to register trade-marks to protect its brand (and to prevent other guilds from using confusing names) is an interesting development indeed.
The Syndicate's explanation of its trade-marks is here