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Stardock and Ironclad Prevail in Rebellion Lawsuit; Fight Continues

The Sins of a Solar Empire Forums have a follow-up to news from a couple of years ago that Rebellion Developments had filed an edgy lawsuit against Ironclad Games and Stardock over the use of the word Rebellion in the title of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, lest someone confuse a video game with a company. Sanity prevailed, and Ironclad prevailed in U.S. court, but as they now explain it, they are under assault from Rebellion legal forces overseas:

Ultimately, the settlement discussions bore no fruit and we were soon served. For the better part of a year we moved through the legal process. While we had multiple arguments to support our case we decided to focus on a First Amendment defense. Our U.S. legal representatives at Nixon Peabody successfully argued on our behalf and obtained the following judgement best said in the judge's own words:

"...Defendants’ use of REBELLION is expressive speech and is protected under the First Amendment. Plaintiffs cannot satisfy the Rogers test; they cannot establish that REBELLION has no artistic relevance to Defendants’ computer game, or that it is explicitly misleading as to source or content. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED."

The full judgement can be found here and a summary analysis of the judgement can be found here.

This judgement is an important result for anyone developing games and for the gaming community as a whole. First, it reaffirms that video games are protected by the First Amendment. Second, it establishes that artistically relevant video game names are also protected by the First Amendment so long as the name isn't explicitly misleading about the content of the game or who created it. Finally, it demonstrates that a First Amendment defense of a video game can be successfully applied to a motion to dismiss thus "preventing a chilling effect on speech". This last point is particularly important to smaller developers who cannot afford to enter a lengthy and expensive court battle. We are very proud that this judgement could help others in the future.

With this case resolved, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recently allowed us to move forward on trademarking the name "Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion" and our Certification of Registration is forthcoming.
Finally, we wish this story had a happy ending. Last week we received notice that Rebellion Developments and the Kingsley brothers have submitted evidence in opposition to our trademark application in Canada and we have unconfirmed reports that they issued a cease and desist order to our partner in the United Kingdom. We fully expect they will continue this worldwide but so long as the countries they choose to oppose us in protect freedom of expression, we intend to continue fighting.

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