Episode 21: Trademark issues in the Gaming Industry feat. Cards Against Humanity and Humanity Hates Trump (Part I)
How can game companies enforce and address intellectual property and trademark issues? This week, Online Editor Anthony Zangrillo is joined by Attorney Brent Lorentz from the Minneapolis law firm Winthrop & Weinstine1 to explore licensing issues within the gaming industry. These board game disputes often involve a confluence of different intellectual property rights, including copyright, trademarks and patents. However, none of these rights truly protect the essence of the game. They may protect parts of the game, but if one part fails, the protection decreases.
Recently, Humanity Hates Trump opened a Kickstarter campaign, in an effort to raise funding and build consumer recognition prior to release.2 They hit a snag, however, when the campaign was removed following a complaint made by Cards Against Humanity (CAH) directly to Kickstarter. In April, the game manufacturer and distributor SCS Direct fought back in Connecticut district court, arguing in their complaint that CAH had “engaged in a campaign to thwart the production and sales of Humanity Hates Trump,” and alleging that CAH’s infringement claims were “baseless.” SCS Direct maintains that they complied with most of CAH’s requested design changes, but refused when CAH asked they change the color of the cards, which remain black-and-white. SCS Direct pointed out that lots of games use black-and-white cards and are unaffiliated with CAH, and furthermore, that CAH has no trademark or trade dress registrations with respect to that design element. The podcast delves into this issue and more in this episode.