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Blizzard Opposes Valve’s Ownership Of “DOTA” Name And Brand, Through Some Mean Legal Action

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Almost 10 years ago, Valve was involved in a turbulent, and controversial legal showdown with their then-publisher, Vivendi, regarding their bizarre and near-hostile practices (illegally distributing Valve games to Asian cyber cafes, withholding game royalties from Valve, purposely delaying CS: Condition Zero). Valve was victorious, although Activision Blizzard would later refuse to continue settlement payments to Valve.

Then, when Dota 2 was first revealed, and when Valve first filed for the trademark “DOTA”, Riot Games, the creators of the Action RTS title League of Legends (and the company that former Dota caretaker Steve “Guinsoo” Feak currently finds himself in the employ of), filed for ownership of the “Defense of the Ancients” trademark in direct opposition to Valve, as DotA-Allstars (the Riot Games subsidiary company owned by Guinsoo and Steve “Pendragon” Mescon, former community manager for Dota – the company would later be acquired by Blizzard, from Riot Games in 2011). What most people don’t know is that they also filed for ownership of the “DOTA” trademark itself, on the same day – for whatever reason, Pendragon and Guinsoo forgot to publicize that fact. 

Then Rob Pardo of Blizzard also expressed his concern over Valve’s move - one year later, when the mediocre “Blizzard DotA” was revealed to the world, Frank Pearce of Blizzard would share the exact same thoughts on the issue… as would Mike Morhaime of Blizzard. Still, the general consensus was that, for the time being, Blizzard and Valve would keep the peace, and the trademark issue would ultimately be resolved in one way or another, hopefully with Valve acquiring both the DOTA and the “Defense of the Ancients” trademarks.

But sometimes it’s just too good to be true. And it is in this case. Just today, folks found out that about 3 months ago, Blizzard went on an all-out trademark dispute with Valve, over the “DOTA” trademark.

Blizzard Opposes Valve’s Ownership Of “DOTA” Name And Brand, Through Some Mean Legal Action

Despite the fact that Blizzard has never really lifted a finger to do anything for the Dota community, and despite the fact that rumor has it they kicked out IceFrog when he pitched a Dota sequel to them before he ever talked to Valve, Blizzard somehow believes that they have some sort of right or legal basis to oppose Valve’s attempt to file the “DOTA” trademark. Nevermind that they didn’t attempt this over a year ago, when Dota 2 was first revealed. Now, after announcing their “Blizzard Dota”, they’ve suddenly reversed their stance, and they’ve gone on the attack. This is Blizzard’s notice of opposition, filed on the 16th of November, last year.

It is fairly lengthy – in it, they claim that the fact that because Dota was originally a Warcraft 3 mod… “members of the public have come to associate and identify the ‘DOTA Trademarks’ with Blizzard” (the DOTA trademarks being “Defense of the Ancients”; “DOTA”; “DotA” and the trademark being opposed here, “DOTA”). And this somehow gives them authority over Dota as a whole. Apparently, Blizzard has forgotten about that time Valve acquired Alien Swarm, which was originally an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod. Did Epic Games flip tables over that? I think not. How about when Valve acquired Team Fortress, which was a Quake 1 mod? Did id Software get sand in their mangina as well? No, they did not. And I have most certainly not seen Valve sue the producers of Natural Selection 2, just because the original NS was built on GoldSrc, and because NS2 is a paid sequel on a different engine.

Another argument from Blizzard is that the eponymous “Ancients” are actually Warcraft 3 characters. You see, in the original Dota, the Ancients are exactly that: the Warcraft 3 Ancient “The Tree of Life”. Unfortunately, Blizzard appears to be woefully unaware of the fact that in Valve’s Dota 2, the Ancients are actually “Ancient Fortresses”, large stone fortresses, and not big trees. Later on, Blizzard claims that Valve has never released or distributed any “products using the mark DOTA” or “any products using any title which might be conceivably shortened to the acronym ‘DOTA’”. Apparently, Blizzard hasn’t heard about this yet.

This is Valve’s response, issued one month later, on the 22nd of December of last year - a lovely little Christmas gift for Blizzard. However, let’s skip that, and let’s take a look at what else is going on with the case:

Deadline for Discovery Conference: 25th January 2012
Discovery Opens: 25th January 2012
Initial Disclosures Due: 24th February 2012
Expert Disclosures Due: 23rd June 2012
Discovery Closes: 23rd July 2012
Plaintiff (Blizzard)’s Pretrial Disclosures: 6th September 2012
Plaintiff (Blizzard)’s 30-Day Trial Period Ends: 21st October 2012
Defendant (Valve)’s Pretrial Disclosures: 5th November 2012
Defendant (Valve)’s 3o-Day Trial Period Ends: 20th December 2012
Plaintiff (Blizzard)’s Rebuttal Disclosures: 4th January 2013
Plaintiff (Blizzard)’s 15-Day Rebuttal Period Ends: 3rd February 2013

As can be seen, this might take a really long while. I just hope we get to find out more about it. Personally, I’m not worried too much. Let’s not forget that Valve has hired Eul, the original creator of Dota; and IceFrog, the current caretaker of Dota, and the man who has done the most for it. Without Eul, Dota wouldn’t exist, and without IceFrog, Dota would have been forgotten half a decade ago. IceFrog has promised that Dota itself, and its community, will remain active and alive, and we can see that Valve has no intenion of killing the Dota community or cashing in on the Dota name. It seems as if they’re simply trying to secure the trademark to ensure that no one tries any funny stuff. The world of the Action RTS genre is a turbulent one indeed, so I’m all for Valve acquiring the Dota trademarks, because they’ll make great use of them, and they will not kill Dota. The people who made Dota what it is are right there at Valve, and they probably have the community’s best interests at heart. As well as a bullet-proof legal defense plan – they probably expected such a thing would eventually occur.

Blizzard, however, is owned entirely by Activision. It is a public company under the control of one of the most loathed game publishers of all time (which means the same people milking the Call of Duty cashcow and the same people that single-handedly ran Guitar Hero into the ground, are making the decisions that run Blizzard). Every single thing Blizzard does is done in order to increase stock value for shareholders. It may claim that it wants Dota to stay in the public domain, but I guarantee that if Activision Blizzard has its way, before long, it’ll try to snatch Dota up as well. In fact, I believe it already is: “Blizzard seeks to prevent registration [...] of a trademark, DOTA, that for more than seven years has been used exclusively by Blizzard and its fan community, under license from Blizzard.”

Seeing Valve do all this tremendous stuff with Dota 2 has shown Activision Blizzard just how much of a wasted opportunity this was for them. They want to turn that around, in their favor, not in ours. The simple fact that they were the ones to ”attack” first, and only after revealing their Dota game to the public, clearly illustrates the reality of this situation. And it’s a shame, because I used to love Blizzard. Diablo was one of the first PC games I ever played, and it remains, in my opinion, one of the all-time greatest games. But as of late, it doesn’t seem as if they’ve got their fans’ best interests at heart. Valve, however, has always cared for its fans, no matter what. Even more, when someone like IceFrog, who cares more for his community than almost any modder out there, is on their side. And that’s why I’d trust Valve with the Dota trademarks any day.

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12 Comments

  1. ugh, I hat publicly traded gaming companies… -.-

  2. I think this article is a “Tad” bias :D Either way, I’m with Valve!

  3. Damnit Blizzard just share. D: We’re all friends here.

  4. I defend Blizzard.

  5. Based on Valve’s response.

    http://i.imgur.com/UpNlG.png

  6. “when Dota 2 was firat revealed”

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