The bad feeling brewing between Valve and Blizzard over the upcoming Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) sequel has finally boiled over into overt legal action.
When Valve announced it would be working on a sequel to DOTA, originally a mod for Blizzard's real-time strategy game Warcraft III, Blizzard's ears pricked up but it did nothing. After all, while DOTA required Warcraft III to play it wasn't a direct Blizzard property, but the work of third-party independent developers and fans of the game.
When Valve submitted a trademark application for DOTA in 2010, however, Blizzard's lawyers started to get antsy. Despite Valve having no prior input in the series, it appears it wanted to protect its efforts in the sequel with some legal might.
While it's true that Valve hired one of the creators of the original DOTA to work on the sequel, that's about the extent of its claim to the mark. Initial indications were that Valve would only seek to trademark 'DOTA 2,' but it soon became clear that the company was looking for full trademark rights to 'DOTA' as well.
That, Blizzard claims, is something up with which it shall not put. According to papers filed with the US Patents and Trademarks Office, Blizzard is looking to invalidate Valve's application.
The papers, quietly filed back in November 2011 before being dug up by a member of the Neogaf forums
, claim that while Blizzard didn't file for a trademark on DOTA it has a better claim to the rights than Valve.
'By attempting to register the mark DOTA, Valve seeks to appropriate the more than seven years of goodwill that Blizzard has developed in the mark DOTA and in its Warcraft III computer game,
' the company alleges in its filing for opposition, 'and take for itself a name that has come to signify the product of years of time and energy expended by Blizzard and by fans of Warcraft III.
'Valve has no right to the registration it seeks. If such registration is issued, it not only will damage Blizzard, but also the legions of Blizzard fans that have worked for years with Blizzard and its products, including by causing consumers to falsely believe that Valve's products are affiliated, sponsored or endorsed by Blizzard and are related or connected to Warcraft III.
Blizzard's central argument may be sound, but it's making some questionable claims. 'By this Opposition, Blizzard seeks to prevent registration by its competitor Valve Corporation of a trademark, DOTA, that for more than seven years has been used exclusively by Blizzard and its fan community, under license from Blizzard,
' the filing reads. That's not a claim that will likely stand up in court: DOTA was an independent effort, extending Blizzard's Warcraft III title but not associated directly with the company in any way.
With that simple statement, Blizzard appears to be claiming that it came up with the word 'DOTA' and licensed it to the community for use in the mod, something which appears to be contrary to the fact. That's a loophole that Valve could exploit as it seeks to fight Blizzard's claim and earn itself DOTA as a true trademark ready for its own licensing endeavours.
Thus far, neither Blizzard nor Valve have publicly commented on the case.
Do you think Blizzard's objection is fair, or is Valve only seeking to protect its future projects? Should both just sack the lawyers and get on with the business of making great games? Share your thoughts over in the forums