Sometimes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Other times, it's the sincerest form of making a quick buck off of another person's good name. No, this isn't a story about Gameloft (for any App Store frequenters out there). It's actually the battle between two of today's biggest heavyweights in video game development. And just who took what from whom is now going to the courts.
Back in 2003, Blizzard Entertainment released the critically acclaimed Warcraft III, which served as a precursor to the World of Warcraft games enjoyed by over 10 million MMORPG subscribers. It also inspired an independent real-time strategy mod named Defense of the Ancients in 2003 that would go on to enjoy rabid success of its own. Valve eventually took interest, and in August of 2010 the company applied for a trademark to the name "DOTA" and revealed work on Dota 2 that October. Fans were delighted... but Blizzard felt slighted.
Despite no official trademark for the game, Blizzard has always maintained that DOTA is part of their universe and is releasing its very own Blizzard DOTA as a mod for their RTS hit StarCraft 2. While undoubtedly confusing, it seemed at first as if Valve and Blizzard's games could exist in some sort of discorded symphony with each other until the former's trademark sealed the deal.
That's all about to change now, as Blizzard has concocted a very good case for blocking Valve's trademark application - and has sent it straight to the US Patent and Trademark Office's Trial and Appeal Board. A NeoGAF user recently posted on a rather detailed filing, in which Blizzard argues that, "the DOTA mark has become firmly associated in the mind of consumers with Blizzard".
Here's what Blizzard had to say about Dota 2:
In contrast to Blizzard, Applicant Valve Corporation ("Valve") has never used the mark DOTA in connection with any product or service that currently is available to the public. 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 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.
To make a molehill out of a mountain, DOTA was a direct spin-off of Warcraft III (it even required a copy of the game to run on), and Blizzard is claiming a tangible value on the properties and connections it's established with name - such as holding DotA tournaments at BlizzCon.
It wouldn't be surprising if Valve doesn't win their bid after all, but Blizzard really should have trademarked "DOTA" a lot earlier; the fact that they're just now getting into a legal standoff with Valve seems long overdue (Perhaps Warcraft filling them with gold up to their eyeballs over the last decade clouded their vision.)
If anything though, the current strife will allow plenty of time for both Blizzard DOTA and Dota 2 to get out the door without the courts slamming it onto their backs. We enjoyed Blizzard DOTA's trailer when it released, and the most recent screenshots from Dota 2 have it shaping up as one of 2012's preeminent RTS offerings.
Ranters, how would you strike the gavel in case between Blizzard and Valve? Would you prefer the series to be made exclusively by one developer?
Dota 2 and Blizzard DOTA are both forecasted for a 2012 release on the PC and Mac.
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