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CD Projekt Red pledges to not abuse its trademark on the word 'cyberpunk'

By Cal Jeffrey ยท 21 replies
Apr 8, 2017
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  1. The game studio responsible for The Witcher franchise, CD Projekt Red, stirred up some controversy recently when it trademarked the term “cyberpunk,” according to GameSpot. The team is working on a new IP titled Cyberpunk 2077, which is based on the “pen-and-paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020.”

    The term cyberpunk is primarily used in a generic manner to describe a particular niche of sci-fi literature. These stories usually revolve around dystopian futures where humanity is in the throws of transhumanism. The Deus Ex series of novels (and video games) by James Swallow would be a good example of the genre. Phillip K. ****’s, Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep on which the movie Blade Runner is based, would be another example.

    Fans of this genre are very passionate about it. So when CD Projekt Red trademarked the word, enthusiasts were worried that the term was being co-opted and that the whole thing was “reductive.” Registering a word that is widely used can lead to abuses of the trademark.

    The Inquisitr reported that Hello Games, maker of No Man’s Sky, was sued in 2016 by Sky TV which claimed a trademark on the word “sky.” Hello Games won the right to keep Sky in the title of its game, but only after coming to a “secret stupid” settlement agreement. The British-based cable company also threw its weight around when Microsoft wanted to name its cloud service SkyDrive. The software giant buckled to the bullying and renamed its service OneDrive.

    So, there is some basis for concern over trademarking a word that is commonly used to describe something that already exists. However, according to GameSpot, CD Projekt Red is not planning to “aggressively” enforce its trademark like Sky TV has.

    “The reason for our registration is to protect us from any unlawful actions of our competitors,” said a spokesperson. “A trademark is not a copyright or patent — these are totally different rights and should not be confused.”

    What this means is that CD Projekt Red is not looking to pursue artists and authors who wish to use the term in their work. It even gave a couple of hypothetical examples of titles that it would not catch its attention for trademark violations.

    “If someone names their game: 'John Smith: Adventures Set in a Cyberpunk Dystopian Society' or '20 Short Video Games Set in Cyberpunk Worlds,' none of them should be treated as an infringement of our rights.”

    The developer just wants to ensure that it protects itself from other companies using the word as a way to ride on the coattails of its IP or to misrepresent the brand.

    Of course, all of this is assuming that the title is successful. However, if the studio does as good a job with Cyberpunk 2077 as it has done with The Witcher franchise, then we could be looking at a long and lucrative series.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Lurker101

    Lurker101 TS Evangelist Posts: 850   +386

    CD Projekt Red have thus far proven themselves to be a trustworthy company and friendly towards its customers. I cannot count the amount of times they have happily allowed fans to use their materials wholesale as mods for other games (such as the Yennifer companion mod for Skyrim) so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them.

    It's worth noting, since this was not mentioned in the article, CD Projeckt Red already had the trademark for 'Cyberpunk' through acquisition from R. Talsorian Games, the creators of Cyberpunk 2020 who originally trademarked the word. CD Projekt Reds role was the updating and expanding of the trademark to explicitly cover video games.
  3. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    Thank you for that supplement.
    Lurker101 and Reehahs like this.
  4. Xclusiveitalian

    Xclusiveitalian TS Evangelist Posts: 786   +173

    It's suppose to be illegal to copyright common words or phrases! I'm just waiting for a troll company to get "The" copyright and make 500k copyright claims. Most people especially small companies, or individual people working on projects can't afford a lawsuit not even one they are going to win.
    Reehahs and alabama man like this.
  5. Trademark != copyright. Even if they were the same thing, "cyberpunk" isn't a common word.
    Reehahs likes this.
  6. Xclusiveitalian

    Xclusiveitalian TS Evangelist Posts: 786   +173

    If you trademark Sci-fi, Adventure, Horror, it's the same thing. It's a common word because it is used to describe a genre and is already widely used. Trademark, copyright, it's all the same..you are still getting sued for a dumb reason. Like having Sky in your title.
    psycros and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  7. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 3,050   +1,384

    Trademarks are very, very different from copyright, and youre going to make yourself look foolish if you continue with this argument without reading up.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,389   +3,779

    The word and term Cyberpunk has been around for quite awhile (over 20 years) and is often used in reference to some hackers, etc. before the term hacker became so prevalent. I can certainly understand the desire to copy write it, but it's been in the public domain so long I am surprised that the copy write office would even consider it.
    psycros likes this.
  9. Your heresy is noted. Repent or suffer the wrath of humiliation.
    Reehahs likes this.
  10. Lurker101

    Lurker101 TS Evangelist Posts: 850   +386

    First of all, Cyberpunk was originally trademarked back in the 90's by R. Talsorian Games to protect the brand of their Cyberpunk series of games, back when it wasn't a common term. As I mentioned earlier, CD Projekt Red had already acquired the trademark from R. Talsorian Games and this is an update and expansion of the trademark to cover video games and, from what I am currently lead to believe, books and clothing. Perhaps they are looking towards merchandise for their upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 too.

    Secondly, trademarks and copyrights are not the same thing. A trademark exists to protect the name of a brand to prevent confusion from competitors and must be specifically applied, hence the update to specifically cover video games, books and clothing. Without it, what's to stop a bunch of shovelware being called Cyberpunk 2070 or Cyberpunk 2088 clogging the stores and duping money from the less savvy? Copyright is more vague and designed to protect original works such as art and literature and only in exceptional circumstances can it be applied to words.

    In the case of Skys defence of their trademark, I have to say that they were right to protect it from Microsofts SkyDrive (now OneDrive) but wrong with their efforts against No Mans Sky. While No Mans Sky clearly had no chance of brand confusion and should have been disregarded, Sky does deal in internet services and there would have been a clear case of brand confusion with another company calling its cloud based storage system SkyDrive.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
    Tanstar and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  11. mlauzon76

    mlauzon76 TS Member Posts: 24

    The problem is, 'cyberpunk' cannot be trademarked by them, because of the following:

    "Cyberpunk" by Bruce Bethke (1983), "Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology" by Bruce Sterling (1986), "Cyberpunk" by Billy Idol (1993); "GURPS Cyberpunk" by Steve Jackson [Games] (1990).

    There is a tonne of prior art!
    psycros likes this.
  12. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 3,050   +1,384

    Unless any of those people (mostly the games stuff though) filed for trademark (which is a quite costly and time consuming endeavor for individuals), its perfectly allowed.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  13. A rebuttal:

    CDPR can't trademark 'Cyberpunk' because they have trademarked 'Cyberpunk.' If they couldn't trademark 'Cyberpunk,' as you seem to suggest, they would never have been awarded the trademark for 'Cyberpunk.'

    We must therefore accept one of two possible conclusions:

    1. CDPR cannot do what they have done.
    2. CDPR did do what they have done.

    My money is on (2).
    cliffordcooley and ikesmasher like this.
  14. Footlong

    Footlong TS Addict Posts: 142   +73

    Trademark only works in a very specific scenario. See watch?v=3gWaAJR5L18
    So Cyberpunk is not a property of CD Projekt Red. They are now a brand that CD Projekt Red has to protect to avoid another company in video game business to use in a similar fashion. Like let's say EA Battlefield 2057 Cyberpunk War
  15. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    There seems to be a lot of confusion between trademarking and copyrighting (and although nobody has mentioned it, might as well through patents in there too). These are three very distinct and separate things, but they are also very simple to distinguish from one another.

    Trademarks are almost always applied to brand names. It is used to keep competitors from coming along and making a product and naming the same or similar to your product in an attempt to build from the success of your brand. For example, Procter & Gamble has a trademark on the word tide for its Tide detergent. That mean I can't put another detergent on the market and call it Tide Zero. I'd get sued for trademark infringement. However, I could likely write a book called High Tide and Procter & Gamble probably leave me alone because there is no intent to capitalize on their business. You cannot just claim to have a trademark. Trademarks must be registered.

    Copyrights protect any recorded works. Copyrights are automatically granted as soon as the work is produced and do not have to be registered. However, it is easier to defend a copyright if it is registered. Copyrights are not applied to brand names. That's the job of trademarks. So Tide cannot copyright their brand, but I can copyright my book High Tide. The copyright protects my book from unauthorized sale, reproduction, publication, or other types of copying. The copyright usually only covers the actual content of the work, so if you wanted to write another book and call it High Tide, you could as long as the content was significantly different. I could Trademark my title if I chose and then prevent you from using it, but this is typically only done when a series or franchise is being created.

    Patents protect physical objects and their composition. Maybe you have an idea for a new broom design, it's patentable. Patents also cover things like recipes and formulas. Proctor & Gamble probably has a patent on the Tide formula. So if I copied their formula and called it Zing, they could sue me over the composition of my formula.

    I'm pointing this out just to clarify the confusion in the arguments. By trademarking Cyberpunk, CDPR is protecting what they how will be a new franchise for them from copycat software using their brand name illegitimately. And as @Lurker101 pointed out twice, it is merely an expansion of a trademark that was already held by R. Talsorian Games.
    Lurker101 likes this.
  16. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    *what they hope will be a new franchise
  17. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,712   +2,510

    Very nice summary. Still, there can be little dispute that patent and copyright law are being abused by monolithic companies and trolls.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  18. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    On one hand, I can't think of a single case where abuse has been upheld by the courts. On the other hand, a case does not have to go all the way to court for it to be abusive. Sky TV is a perfect example. When they sued Microsoft, rather than going to court to fight about it, Gates said screw it, we'll just come up with a different name. Similarly, when Sky sued Hello Games, Murphy and friends settled out of court for an undisclosed agreement. Both cases, would have been a tough sale for a judge, Sky may have been able to get a judge to agree with infringement in Microsoft's case, but for Hello Games, I don't think Sky had much of a case to stand on, but I'm not a lawyer. I am of the opinion that in the case of Sky TV vs. Hello Games, Sky was clearly abusing their trademark.

    I also agree that there is some abuse going on in the world of copyrights too. I feel Disney is a big offender of copyright law abuse. We are talking about a company who has taken works that have been in the public domain, republished them with a fresh copyright, then tried to prevent others from doing the same. However, copyright law is a much trickier area than trademark law. There are a lot of ins and outs and loopholes that can be exploited by skilled attorneys, which is why it's always the big corporation practicing the abuse rather than independents and smaller firms.
    Lurker101 likes this.
  19. wizardB

    wizardB TS Booster Posts: 147   +47

    William Gibson created the term in his books I believe how the hell can some company trademark another mans creation.
  20. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    Because Gibson did not trademark it himself and copyright does not cover single words. (See above)
    Lurker101 likes this.
  21. mlauzon76

    mlauzon76 TS Member Posts: 24

    He didn't though, this author did:

    "Cyberpunk" by Bruce Bethke (1983)
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  22. wizardB

    wizardB TS Booster Posts: 147   +47

    He wrote Burning Chrome in 1982 and refereed to cyberpunk in it.

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