Pac-Man V. Jawbreaker

Video Game Law Blog

December 28, 1981

The defendant published a game called “Jawbreaker” which was created by John Harris. Harris admitted to getting the idea from “Pac-Man”. Jawbreaker was already being marketed for the home computer, while Pac-Man had not yet been marketed. Although both games were maze-based, the judge found there were nine substantial differences, including the music and the way the characters moved.

The court held that there was “nothing protectable under the copyright laws as to the “Pac-Man” game itself, and the laws do not protect the strategy of a player symbol being being guided though a maze appearing to bobble up dots in its path while being chased through the maze by several opponents.”

The court also held that Atari had not established a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace because Atari had not yet entered the market with its “Pac-Man” game.

Atari, Inc. v. Williams
December 28, 1981 US District Court, ED California
1981 US Dist. LEXIS 17667
KEYWORDS: Pac-Man – Jawbreaker – copyright infringement – trademark infringement

SUMMARY BY: Cheyenne Reese