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Video game developers Valve and Blizzard have recently clashed over Valve’s filing of a trademark application for the mark “DOTA,” which stands for “Defense of the Ancients.” Blizzard, developer of the video game Warcraft III, claims that Valve does not have the right to the mark of DOTA. First, a bit of history. Defense of the Ancients was originally a community-made add-on to Warcraft III that used models, maps, and characters from Blizzard’s game. However, over the last several years, DOTA has referred to that original add-on to Warcraft III, Valve’s new DOTA 2, Blizzard’s forthcoming game Blizzard DOTA, or it may refer to the new genre of gaming that mimics the original DOTA game. Further complicating matters is the fact that Valve has hired the original creator of the DOTA game to make DOTA 2 for Valve. The intricate nature of this case will surely have a ripple effect on trademark law as it relates to community-created content.
It is interesting that Blizzard does not explicitly claim ownership of the DOTA trademark, it merely is trying to prevent its competitor, Valve, from registering the mark. Blizzard’s complaint states that Defense of the Ancients was made, distributed, and played under license from Blizzard, and that the “Ancients” referred to are characters of Blizzard’s Warcraft III. Furthermore, Blizzard claims that the DOTA name has been associated with Blizzard and Warcraft III for more than seven years, and that Valve should not have any claim to it.
Part of Blizzard’s claim hinges on the fact that DOTA was created using Warcraft III‘s “world builder.” The builder’s End-User License Agreement (EULA) restricts an distribution of modifications (such as DOTA) to Warcraft III from being distributed on a stand-alone basis, including commercial sale, without Blizzard’s consent. Valve’s response (.pdf) is that DOTA 2 is precisely what it claims to be: a follow-up or sequel to DOTA. Valve is claiming that there will be no customer confusion, and that Blizzard does not have an exclusive right to claim the DOTA mark.
Discovery for the case is open until July 23. Fans of DOTA 2 shouldn’t be worried, however, because Blizzard’s claim is merely based on its underlying ownership of Warcraft III, not the actual mechanics or content in DOTA. Because of this limited claim it seems that the worst thing that Valve will have to do is simply change DOTA 2′s name. Perhaps Defense of the Trademarks will do.
– Brandon Trout
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