CD Projekt Red has come under criticism for their recent actions regarding the trademark rights to the word "Cyberpunk".
Last year, the developer announced that they were filing a trademark for the word in Europe, which has since been approved by the European Union.
Several fans, however, voiced their displeasure in the trademark, believing that CD Projekt Red is overstepping in trying to protect the word Cyberpunk, which is a descriptive term for a whole genre, for their upcoming RPG, Cyberpunk 2077.
CD Projekt Red has since come forward in a written statement defending their decision to trademark the word. On their official twitter account, the company stated that the reason for the trademark was to protect their work going into Cyberpunk 2077 and trademarked the word as a self-defense measure only.
"Should we ever create a sequel, there's a possibility of someone telling us we can't name it, say, 'Cyberpunk 2078' or 'Cyberpunk 2," reads the statement. "Moreover, if someone else registered this trademark in the future, they could prohibit CD Projekt from making any expansions to the game, any additional titles under the name "Cyberpunk." The reason for our registration is to protect us from unlawful actions of unfair competitors."
The company goes on to explain that the trademark does not prohibit anyone from using the word "Cyberpunk" so long as it is not used in some form of business, such as advertising or branding. It also doesn't give CD Projekt Red exclusivity to the setting and is only in regards to video games.
However, trademark laws, while not giving the word full ownership to CD Projekt Red, do give it the ability to potentially shut down other projects if the company has reasonable doubt to believe a product with the Cyberpunk name will confuse customers. Essentially, CD Projekt Red has the trademark for the word when it comes to video games, and can legally shut down other games that use the word Cyberpunk in the title if they wish due to potential games confusing the market.
There is also, as they explain in their statement, the ability to use the word descriptively: it is different to use the word as Cyberpunk 2341 than it is to use it as Jim Jones' Cyberpunk Adventure as the latter is a descriptive use of the word.
Other companies have attempted to use trademarks to legally bar other games and products from being sold. Bethesda, for example, was involved in a trademark dispute over the word "scrolls", which was used as the name of an online card game by indie developer Mojang before shutting down in 2015. Similarly, developer King, the team behind Candy Crush Saga, tried to claim trademark over the word "saga" shortly before the release of indie developer Stoic's The Banner Saga.
CD Projekt Red maintains that the trademark filed for the word "Cyberpunk" will not be used aggressively. Relatedly, it should be noted that CD Projekt Red had also trademarked the word "Cyberpunk" in 2012 in the U.S. when they first announced that they were working on Cyberpunk 2077 and that there has been no legal action with it since.
Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2013, first released in 1988 and known more nowadays for its second edition Cyberpunk 2020 released in 1990. Lead designer Mike Pondsmith, who owned the tabletop trademarks to Cyberpunk, transferred some of the rights to the trademark to CD Projekt Red back in 2011, when the project was in its early stages.
Cyberpunk 2077 has no official release date, but CD Projekt Red has stated that they will provide more information on the game this year.
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