The Witcher 3 Creators Spark Outrage With Trademark Of 'Cyberpunk'

Screenshot: Cyberpunk 2077 / YouTube

Video game fans have been anticipating the latest franchise from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077, for years. But only recently did it come to light that the makers of The Witcher franchise had trademarked the term "Cyberpunk" and this week some fans cried foul. Now, the developer is insisting that everything is OK and they will never use their power for evil.

As Gamespot points out, some members of the internet commentariat fear that CD Projekt Red might become some sort of variation of the evil corporations that often serve as the antagonist in cyberpunk fiction. Afterall, cyberpunk is a genre of science fiction that goes back decades with hundreds of works falling under its umbrella.

Trademarking cyberpunk is like claiming ownership of “romantic comedy.” Would smaller creators be crushed by the well-funded company’s lawyers the minute they dip their toe into the genre? What’s more, Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t even an entirely original property, it’s based on a pen-and-paper game from 1990 called Cyberpunk 2020.

CD Projekt RED caught word of the fans’ worries and released an official statement on Twitter. “We want to protect our hard work and we don’t plan on using the trademark offensively—it’s a self-defence measure only,” the statement reads. It goes on to explain that the trademark is primarily a case of protecting its own use of the name. For instance, if it wanted to make a sequel called Cyberpunk 2078 it would need the legal authority to prevent someone from snatching up that name first.

It also claims that some of the trademarks were actually acquired from R. Talsorian Games, the publisher of the original game that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on. So, someone already owned the name anyway and it was never a problem.

The company went on to clarify that the trademark would only be enforced in situations that might cause confusion among consumers. “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 company writes.

It’s a little bit ironic that the name of a genre that’s so focused on the free flow of information, rejection of ownership and never trusting corporations is now a legally protected trademark of a corporation that insists, “trust us.” But CD Projekt Red has built up a lot of goodwill in the video game world and most likely nothing egregious will ever come out of this.

Trademark trolling isn’t as high profile as patent trolling and doesn’t usually become a huge problem. In 2001, the makers of the B2 stealth bomber, Northrop Grumman, paid 10 bucks to settle a suit with the owner of the trademark for the term “stealth.” On the other hand, Sky TV has successfully bullied Microsoft to change the name of its cloud storage service SkyDrive. Sky TV also spent three years battling the makers of the open world video game No Man’s Sky. The game makers eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

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Comments

    CD Projekt have never shown themselves to be a petty studio, I believe them when they say this is just to particularly protect their property. I doubt they'll go after any and everyone utilising the term 'Cyberpunk'. However, if (and when) someone tries to put out say, a game called "Cyberpunk 2017" or something in Steam Greenlight (or whatever it is that exists at that point), you can bet they'll use it to jump on them and shut them down posthaste. I think they've earnt a little trust at this point, being one of the best, most standup developers in the industry.

      exactly, also this is last weeks news, like a full week old that was already reported on by PC Gamer, RPS, The Escapist and more

      The problem is that corporations are not people, so you should be wary of relying on things like character for things like this. I completely believe that the current management doesn't plan to abuse the trademark, but we've got no idea what a future management might do (e.g. after a buyout, or if the assets are sold off in bankruptcy. If it is a bad trademark, we should oppose it.

      As for immitators, if someone put out a Cyberpunk 2078 game that was trying to cash in on their game, a trademark on "Cyberpunk 2077" would likely work here, arguing that the other game has a confusingly similar name. It might be a little more difficult than using a "Cyberpunk" trademark, but that what comes from using a generic word in your name.

        This is a fair point to make, if I were to compare the EA of the 90s, to the EA of today, it's chalk and cheese. The EA of the 90s were a great lot, one who put out quality products and endorsed creativity, experimentation and were by and large trustworthy. I go by how CD Projekt Red has been in the past, but that is indeed something to keep in mind :)

      I dislike anyone trying to trademark generic names, regardless of their reputation. It seems likely that this trademark would be unenforceable in any case, the term has been genericised for a long time now and the word falls at the weakest end of the distinctiveness scale since it's descriptive rather than arbitrary.

    I think the term "goodwill" says it all. Their reputation precedes them... and that reputation is a Hell of a thing.

      Sadly, that isn't a good reason to support this kind of thing.

      iinet had an amazing rap for customer service...
      Then TPG bought them, and now their customer service is terrible.

    Doesn't trademark also include style of presentation, like font, logo and so on? If that's all being applied, what's the problem?

      Not necessarily - it is possible to trademark a plain word and have protection for almost any representation of that word, separate from font treatment, sizing etc. Logos or words combined with an image are a separate issue, and you are only protected for that word in combination with that image.

      In the US at least, trademarks can cover words or designs. In this case, they've been granted a word mark (serial number 85681741). They've also got a word mark on "Cyberpunk 2077" (serial number 85756772), which would probably cover them for everything they say they need the "Cyberpunk" mark for.

    Remember when they said they'd never have regional pricing on GOG.com? Remember when they said they'd never have regional pricing on Witcher games and then added an australia tax on The Witcher 2?

      To be fair, in every instance where publishers forced those things on them, they added compensation. So yes, if you paid the 'Australia Tax' for Witcher 2, you paid more... and you got the difference in GoG store credit.

        You mean the GoG store they own and self published through?

          Yup, that one. Witcher 2 is an isolated case, which blew up with its increased access to more markets... which came with a nasty surprise to them when they had to navigate the licencing agreements required by various retailers.

          A surprise that - once encountered - they factored into their Witcher 3 distribution deals, learning from the mistake that they had already compensated for.

          A person would have to be the most mean-spirited and tunnel-visioned creature on earth to consider that a point against the company rather than what it is: a resounding endorsement for their uncommonly high consideration for customers.

          Last edited 11/04/17 12:34 pm

    I think a tight trademark would do wonders here. "Cyberpunk" when used as a video game title, for a game set in a dystopia, and as the central word in the title. That should cover the defence whilst being free for other use. "Jimmy James: a cyberpunk adventure" shouldn't set off the trademark. CD projekt have a rep, but eventually the studio will change hands. Future proofing for that is important, because we don't trust the studio, we trust those running it. Next gen gotta prove themselves yet.

    The USPTO has 3 live trademarks relating to cyberpunk (all from CD Projekt)
    1) Cyberpunk 2077 - The name, across pretty much every product line
    2) Cyberpunk - Use in role playing games (2011)
    3) Cyberpunk - Similar to their Cyberpunk2077 trademark (2012)

    Firstly if they haven't done anything in 5 years it's unlikely they will.
    Second, if they don't defend it, they can lose it.

    Jesus, Hello Games had to pay to use the word 'sky'?
    The world has gone batshit crazy..

      Yeah. When it gets to that point, it's getting beyond stupid.

    I think it's like other trademarks of words that are in common usage that doesn't or event people from using those words even in other trademarks.
    Best example is The Beatles' Apple Corp. Trademark law doesn't mean you can stop any and all companies from using the word Apple in their business name.

    They have to protect themselves otherwise anyone else could trademark the term Cyberpunk in that context, and prevent them from using it.

    As stated before, CD Project Red we can trust mostly on their word... However it's the lawyers and third parties that work on behalf of CDPR that I don't trust. How many Youtube videos are going to be hit with copyright strikes for having the word Cyberpunk in their video title even though it might not have anything to do with video games?

    I imagine CDPR saying "Don't worry, trust us" while the bland Blue-Haired lawyer from The Simpsons is in the background waving a Cease & Desist paper behind him

    This is a total non issue. It doesn't take much to 'outrage' dribbling idiots on the internet. I always wonder what would happen if these people had an actual crisis in real life.

    Complete non issue, and every major company on earth would have done the same thing. Infringing IP and Trademarks is rife in the games industry, see your preferred mobile App store for the results of not defending your marks.

    people need to stop distracting them. ive waited 30 years for this game HURRY UP !!!

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