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8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the of-doors-and-ways-out dept.

Games 265

An anonymous reader writes "Activision, after acquiring Vivendi, became the new copyright holder of the classic King's Quest series of adventure game. They have now issued a cease and desist order to a team which has worked for eight years on a fan-made project initially dubbed a sequel to the last official installment, King's Quest 8. This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission. After the acquisition, key team members had indicated on the game's forums (now stripped of their original content by order of Activision) that Activision had given the indication that it intended to keep its current fan-game licenses, but was not interested in issuing new ones."

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265 comments

first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312386)

first

second (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312390)

second

Boo (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312400)

It's good to know who are friends of gamers. Activision clearly isn't among them.

Re:Boo (4, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312560)

It's good to know who are friends of gamers. Activision clearly isn't among them.

With Ubisoft pushing its always-online DRM and Activision doing this and releasing just something along the lines of Guitar Hero 28 and new WoW expansions, it's really surprising EA has become the good and innovative guy. They've dropped DRM in many games too and are developing innovative and new IP games like Mirrors Edge, Mass Effect, Dragon Age..

Re:Boo (4, Insightful)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312600)

They got the slap on the wrist good and early. They're turning it around. Wonder how much noise it will take to get Activision back into shape.

Last games by Activision I really enjoyed were Earthworm Jim, Civilization II, and Tony Hawk II (stopped playing the series after that).
Heck, gotten more use out of a free bottle opener from them than any of these games combined.

Wonder if they'd be up to push trademarks on this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal_(interactive_novel) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Boo (3, Insightful)

LBt1st (709520) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312680)

I think MechWarrior 2 was the last thing Activision ever did that I cared about. I certainly won't be buying anything from them anytime soon.
And they'll be crying when this fan made game leaks out accidentally onto the internet and is enjoyed by all and they get absolutely nothing.

Re:Boo (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312902)

Activision will never shape up, mainly because Bobby Kotick [wikipedia.org] is a ruthless, cut-throat bastard who couldn't care less about the gaming community. His disdain for gamers, the very people who provide his meal ticket, has been exhaustively documented. These guys are the worst of the worst, and have long since lost my patronage.

Re:Boo (3, Interesting)

telso (924323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313202)

Civ II was MicroProse [wikipedia.org] (ahh, that list takes me back); Activision did Call to Power [wikipedia.org].

What I remember Activision for was the original MechWarrior game [wikipedia.org]. I had to underclock my 486DX2-66 (still in my (mom's) basement (no, I don't live down there...yet)) to 10 MHz so the "robots" moved at a reasonable speed [abandonia.com]. Of course, when starting at opposite ends of the battlefield, it was much quicker to hit the turbo button and jump back up to 66 MHz till they started firing on you and then slow down again. One run in which the button didn't uncatch, leading to many frantic pushes, resulted in having to sell two Battlemechs just to cover repair costs.

Gosh, /., couldn't you have run this story during the day, when I didn't need to go to sleep? Ah, well, off to DOSBox.

Re:Boo (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313214)

If you think that you have "friends" in the corporate world, you are quite naive. The only friends that corporate executives have, go by names like "Dollar", "Yen", and "Euro".

The previous owners thought that their "generous" licensing to fan groups might net some money in the long run, the current owners feel that locking things up will make more money. There's the story in a single sentence.

fourth (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312404)

Who gives a shit about this article?

Never build a house on another man's land... (5, Insightful)

JPLemme (106723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312408)

...unless you're willing to use it.

I'm not really familiar with this project, but couldn't they just call Princess Rosella like "Princess Rosetta" and so on? It's not like Activision can lay claim to the entire swords and sorcery genre.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (-1, Flamebait)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312420)

No doubt. And if you don't actively attempt to defend your trademarks... you can lose them.

So basically these fan devs picked a fight with Activision and put Activision's back up against a wall.

Very, very stupid on the developers part. I can't blame Activision at all.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312478)

No doubt. And if you don't actively attempt to defend your trademarks... you can lose them.

So basically these fan devs picked a fight with Activision and put Activision's back up against a wall.

Very, very stupid on the developers part. I can't blame Activision at all.

I may be putting too much faith in the summary but it specifically says they were licensed by Vivendi.You can't lose your trademarks by giving specific groups permission to use them. Quite the opposite, this demonstrates control over the mark. In any event, it's hard to see how getting permission from Vivendi, and then discussing with Activision once they'd taken over Vivendi, represents picking a fight.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312528)

no, but if that's the case, maybe it's time they did pick one.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312850)

If Vivendi already gave them permission then what right does Activision have, as acquisitional inheritor of their obligations, to renege on that?

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313326)

The options of a company whose trademark is "endangered" by 3rd party works are
- litigate (cease & desist)
- legalize (license & support).

Vivendi's trademark of Kings Quest was never in danger because the fan-made sequel was officially licensed and endorsed by the company. It wasn't unattended infringement which endangers a trademark, it was a child project.

Activision's move here is totally unreasonable and without a bit of common sense (the new game could only draw more attention and purchases to the franchise, and it would cost them zero - free marketing.) They are really shooting their own foot there.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (2, Interesting)

eeCyaJ (881578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312536)

Gwah? They picked a fight?

From TFA: "Recently, however, ownership of the Sierra IP changed hands and became the property of Activision. After talks and negotiations in the last few months between ourselves and Activision, they have reached the decision that they are not interested in granting a non-commercial license to The Silver Lining, and have asked that we cease production and take down all related materials on our website."

Sounds more organised than some businesses I could name. Doesn't sound like fighting. Maybe they're a little bitter, but 8 years of work being flushed down the tube - whatever the reason - would tend to do that.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312574)

I'm not completely sure Activision can do that without paying some sort of penalty. If you reach an agreement, and then the other party reverses itself, causing you expense even though you behaved at all time in good faith, you're generally due compensation.

It may be more complicated because this is a fan project, and hence was going to be free, and expense is hard to calculate... but in general, if you are left in a lurch because the other party reneges on an agreement that you BOTH reached and which YOU'VE been abiding by, you're in a pretty favorable legal position.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (5, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312714)

> ... you're in a pretty favorable legal position.

Except when the other party has lots of money and you don't. Welcome to the realities of our legal system.

Taking the good with the bad (2, Interesting)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312776)

Yes, when you buy another company, you buy its liabilities along with its assets. If Vivendi had an agreement that it must honor, Activision also bought the liability of being bound by that same agreement.

Tort lawyers prefer to get paid a cut of the judgment, so it doesn't matter how much money the fan-developers have.

Re:Taking the good with the bad (4, Informative)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313190)

I think the problem is, per the original agreement, the game was always subject to the Vivendi's approval before release. Now that the IP belongs to Activision, the game is theoretically subject to their approval. All Activision needs to do to kill the project dead is to refuse to approve anything.

It's a crying shame, because the TSL guys were cooperative and accommodating every step of the way. They sought out a license in the first place, and complied with every change requested of them without complaint (they dropped the "King's Quest" name from the project a few years back because Vivendi/Sierra weren't willing to grant a fan license on the trademark, for instance). But I suppose, in the long run, it's not unexpected.

Re:Taking the good with the bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313390)

It seems like there have been plenty of cases where a company acquires the assets of another company (usually a defunct one) without carrying over any existing contracts or liabilities. I don't know if that's the case here, but I'd definitely want to consult a lawyer before depending on any long-term promises from a company.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

Atomic Fro (150394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312816)

This can happen with trademarks, and it does. For instance Johnson & Johnson has a trademark on "Band Aid." You can't make an adhesive bandage and run around labeling it a "Band Aid" without a license or J&J will sick their lawyers on you. Now imagine 3M or someone else makes an adhesive bandage and called it "Band Aid" without getting permission, and J & J didn't sue. Then someone else does the same thing, then another, then another, then another and J & J does nothing. Then your corner pharmacy brings in some private label "Band Aids" and they call them "Band Aids" as well, except J&J doesn't like it and sues them. The judge is going to tell J&J to shove off because they are no longer "Adhesive Bandages", they are band aids. They would lose the trademark through inaction.

Here are some real world examples: Aspirin, Lanolin, Milk of Magnesia, Celluloid, Kerosene, Shredded Wheat, Linoleum, Cellophane, and Elevator.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312970)

But if you specifically grant a license to 3M because you don't mind them using the name, you protect your right to sue the corner pharmacy, if you so choose. That was the case here -- there was an agreement in place for this specific use, so there was no risk of genericide, because the term was still protected from general use.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

CompassIIDX (1522813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312598)

And if you don't actively attempt to defend your trademarks... you can lose them.

I always hear fanboys trot this one out when a company stomps a fanmade project into the ground. But does it have any real merit? I'm not familiar with trademark law at all, but it seems fishy to me that you can legally own the rights to a property you developed, and then lose those rights to another party -- who would have no legal claim to said property otherwise -- simply because you didn't attack them with lawyers at every opportunity.

Can someone cite a case of this actually happening?

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (4, Informative)

adminstring (608310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312696)

Trademarks which have lost their legal protection in the US due to a lack of zealous lawyering include "aspirin," originally a trademark of Bayer AG, "escalator," originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company, "thermos," originally a trademark of Thermos GmbH, "yo-yo," originally a trademark of Duncan Yo-Yo Company, and "zipper," originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich. References and more info are available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark [wikipedia.org] For a legal precedent from the world of real property, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession [wikipedia.org]

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312818)

So you are basically saying that without aggressive patent protection, most people today wouldn't be using a "zipper". On the positive side it would mean less embarrassing emergency room appearances by careless men. I'm assuming the button-fly is patented (and enforced), because I don't see too many button-flys around. Too bad, but emergency room workers can be happy that patent laws are helping to keep them employed.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (3, Insightful)

adminstring (608310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313098)

We're talking about trademarks in this thread, not patents. There's a different set of laws for those.

Zipper was a trademark which wasn't enforced, and thus it became genericized. If it had been enforced, we'd have to call zippers "sliding fasteners" or something equally awkward. The physical design to which the trademark refers could or could not be patented, that's a completely different issue from whether or not the brand name that refers to the design is trademarked.

You could trademark a non-patented design, or patent a design and not trademark a name for it. Patents and trademarks are apples and oranges.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313174)

Which is not relevant to this case. The simple answer is no, you can't lose a trademark by giving someone explicit permission to use it. That's actively defending it. Not defending it will get it lost. And this was a case of defending the IP by explicitly licensing it. So, as long as they give a license of some kind, and they did in this case, it can never lead to loss of trademark.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

adminstring (608310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313302)

I agree with your interpretation. I was answering GP's general question about whether trademarks are ever lost by not defending them, and did not mean to imply that this was the case with Activision and King's Quest. Activision, as far as I can tell, are just being jerks in this case.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (2, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312708)

You don't lose the rights to an another party, but you will be unable to protect them in the future again because you didn't do so earlier either. If a company gets knowledge that their trademarks are used without their permission, they have to defend them.

Wikipedia explains it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark#Maintaining_rights [wikipedia.org]

But note that it's not only about trademarks here, it's also about Intellectual Property.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312784)

Can someone cite a case of this actually happening?

Aspirin
Kleenex
Zipper

All trademarks, once upon a time. All genericized now. Satisfied? You don't keep a trademark by filling for it and forgetting about it - and thank god for that, since we have enough trouble with patent trolls doing more or less exactly that. Trademarks need to be actively defended, lest they fall into public domain.

Doesn't make what Activision did right especially since, as noted above, the trademarks were in fact approved by Vivendi, and should have been transferable as such without the danger of failure to defend.

(All examples care of 30 seconds on wiki, though I knew what I was looking for).

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313250)

You can't "lose the rights to another party." You just lose your exclusive right to that trademark. If I was to release a portable music player called the "iPod," Apple chose not to sue me into the next century, and the courts found that they had neglected to enforce their trademark on the name, that doesn't mean that I'd now be able to sue anyone using the name. It just means that anyone who wanted to could chose to name their media player "iPod" and Apple couldn't do a thing about it. It happens quite a bit, actually: aspirin, escalator, zipper, thermos, cola, etc.

That being said, I don't know if trademarks are really at issue in this case. The designers were granted a right to use Sierra IP in their agreement with Vivendi, but they pointedly were not granted a right to use Sierra trademarks. Before the 2005 cease and desist letter that led to the original non-commercial license, the project was entitled "King's Quest IX," but the name was changed to the non-trademark-infringing "The Silver Lining" at Vivendi's insistence. The issue now would seem to be the more general licensing of copyrighted IP at all, and the copyright law is different than trademark law. For one, you can't lose a copyright due to non-enforcement, IIRC.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313366)

You can't allow your trademarked names float freely around the market unattended. You can't just say "let it be, let them use that name, we don't care".

You must seek, acknowledge and then decide: Is it harmful or is it positive to our company?

In the first case, you request cease&desist, and on failure to do so, you litigate.
In the other case, you grant a license to use the trademark, officially endorsing the activity.

Failure to pick either of the two routes endangers your trademark. But blindly following only the first one really damages your PR.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (5, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312426)

They're not building on it, they had a license. Activision reneged. This is terrible news, AGD is sure to be next on the chopping block, with their fully licensed remake of Quest for Glory 2.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312558)

Sounds like open-and-shut breach of contract, and Activision will get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer.

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (4, Interesting)

superbus1929 (1069292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312726)

But was there an actual contract?

That's not a rhetorical question. I'm actually wondering if there was, and what it was. This might be rendered null and void due to ownership transferral (as in, Activision owns Vivendi, and now has full, autonomous say over their IPs)

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312752)

> Activision will get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer.

You meant: "Activision may get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer who will agree to work for a contingency fee."

Re:Never build a house on another man's land... (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312958)

Which would be amusing, since Quest for Glory had to be renamed (it was originally Hero Quest, in keeping with the other *Quest series) due to trademark infringement against Milton Bradley's Hero Quest boardgame. At least it'll be a thorough re-creation.

Was it in writing? (4, Insightful)

zalas (682627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312414)

This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission.

So, did they actually get this in writing, with a contract signed by both sides? Would such a contract survive an acquisition?

Re:Was it in writing? (4, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312516)

That last bit about "Subject to approval" is a loophole... all Activision has to do is reject the final product, always find something wrong with it to deny approval.

Sort of like gets done with iPhn Appstor

Re:Was it in writing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312620)

Obviously ownership of a company changing hands does not nullify the contracts made by the company. This seems very weird. Might be a case of poor developers not having the cash to defend their case in court, so Activision can dictate anything they like.

Re:Was it in writing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312922)

A contract would imply some tangible benefit for both sides. If Vivendi was just letting them use it but taking nothing in return, legally they could renege at any time.

One can only hope (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312416)

These sad wankers will emerge from their Moms' basements after all these long years.

if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (4, Insightful)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312424)

...they should lose it. Are they still actively marketing this game? Do they still sell it? Is there a new version in the works? IP really needs to have a "use-it-or-lose-it" clause.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (4, Interesting)

msclrhd (1211086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312546)

Set a limit of 10 years or similar, after which if there are no new games (and even films) then the universe/characters enter into the public domain like is done for copyright.

This gives enough time for a company to continue a series, and allows fans of franchises that have not seen activity by a company free reign.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (2, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312602)

That's kind of a good idea, but 10 years is too short time, especially now that we've starting to see a lot more re-releases and ports to current generation PC's and consoles of old games. Copyrights last a lot longer too. Losing control over IP is even more serious than over copyright of a single product. Losing the whole IP to the public domain means some idiots can seriously ruin the image of it.

Also, the idea of limiting control over IP goes directly against the reason why we actually have copyright laws. Copyright is meant to protect and enable the income of author and everyone involved for a period of time to fuel the innovation and creating something. If you release IP to public domain it does exactly the different - decreases innovation that goes making new IP. Isn't it the usual rant on slashdot anyway that game companies should come up more with new stuff?

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312656)

To give an example for ruining the image and name - Do you really want 100 crappy games with Civilization or Baldur's Gate name slapped on it which have nothing to do with the original games or authors? Everyone would just try to cash in with the past good name and flood the market with shit games and decrease the general image of whole series, original games too.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312950)

But game publishers are already doing it. Many game series have NOTHING to do with ANY of their original authors and suck donkey balls, see the Command&Conquers for example.
The IP almost never actually belongs to the original authors. The people who created Daggerfall and much of the Elder Scrolls lore had nothing to do with the people who wrote Oblivion which is why Oblivion is just a tech demo and not a really good RPG.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313268)

Haha. Two words: Mickey mouse.
This will never, ever happen.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (4, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312634)

You know what, I actually agree... There should be a limit. This was why the original copyright was for only a few years in the USA. While that original limit might be a little short, for some things I believe that there should be additional limits, especially for things like video games. Unless you are actively selling or have documented intentions (with writers, designers, and coders) actively working on the game, it should be opened up to allow the public to continue. I would say 10 years without being able to purchase or use the game on active consoles/hardware would be sufficient. Just look back on video game history and you would see that is probably a very legitimate timeframe which gives plenty of opportunity for the owners of the IP to keep their IP. The wording might have to be worked on and rules ironed out, because we would not want, say ID releasing "DOOM! Sudoku" to count for the FPS DOOM! franchise. Games that still have a large followings would definitely stay active. You would also see more old games get updated ports to new consoles and systems if/when it makes economic sense. There would be lots more Retro Remixes like "Bionic Commando Rearmed". We would see game franchises like Tie Fighter, Wingcommander, and even Mechwarrior continue (well, in the case of Mechwarrior, looks like its 7 year exile (and more of bastardization) under the hands of Microsoft is near its end).

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (0, Flamebait)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312766)

Do you really want to see store shelves full of titles such as:
Doom The Next Generation
Doom The Previous Generation
Doom The Pizza Baker
Doom The Sims Edition
Doom: Modern Warfare
Operation Flashpoint: Stripper Edition
Alpha Centauri Party Games for Wii
Need for Speed Biking Edition
Mechwarrior Petz 7
Duke Nukem Rides With Ponies

and everything else in between that everyone and their mother would create with Visual Basic and try to cash in with the previously good names?

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312936)

10 years after the last official title came out? Sure, why not! We have customer reviews to filter out crap. And it's not like IP owners themselves don't produce any crap. I mean, how this:

Duke Nukem Rides With Ponies

is fundamentally different from "Duke Caribbean: Life's a Beach", or "Duke: Nuclear Winter"? I mean, consider the story line for the last one (in WP wording):

"In the storyline, Santa Claus is being mind-controlled by aliens into causing trouble on Earth. Several of the levels take place near the North Pole."

Right. I'll take the ponies, if you don't mind?

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313042)

It's not like they could claim that it was made by the same company as the original. A game's a game; why should I care what someone decides to name their shovelware?

IMO, opening up unused IP to development independent of the original owner would bring more benefit than keeping it "protected". It's generally not that hard to tell when a piece of software is some cheap crap, and it would be just as easy to avoid it with a well-known series name tacked on.

Independent groups have a history of making some awesome stuff, when allowed (Ur-Quan Masters, the Chrono Resurrection project, various Ultima Underworld remake attempts, this King's Quest project...). I don't see why projects like them shouldn't be every chance to survive.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (2, Informative)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313054)

Got news for you - Doom had one of the most flexible engines for its time. Couple that with external WAD support and you had HUNDREDS of Doom clones. Aliens TC is one that comes to mind.

That game HAS hundreds of clones.

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313348)

Actually they just started selling it on gog.com

Re:if Activision isn't actively using the IP... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313404)

Wait... Isn't there a clause of "loss due to lack of use" on trademarks?
Same as "loss due to lack of protection", I'm pretty sure a trademark can be lost due to lack of release of any actual product covered under it.
(of course if Activision still sells original Kings' Quest, as some collector's edition or such, this is no-case, but if the product line is shut down for more than a few years, I'm pretty sure the trademark is lost... there is no such thing as "domain-squatting" for trademarks. I'm just not sure about the period...)

see Palm suing over the Netbook(tm) and all the likehood of failing to win.

Exposure to the back catalogue? (4, Insightful)

werdnapk (706357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312438)

Wouldn't some of these fan made games get people interested in some of the originals again? You get enough people into a forgotten series who start asking for more and in turn the rights holder makes a new game of their own in the end with a healthy profit hopefully. Yes, I know... big business doesn't understand this type of thing.

Re:Exposure to the back catalogue? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312504)

Activision may be worried about cannibalizing their anticipated back catalog sales with the recently announced GOG.com deal. The Kings Quest games are in the process of being re-released on GOG.com. Kings Quest 4+5+6 went up for sale less than a week ago. http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/king’s_quest_4_5_6

Re:Exposure to the back catalogue? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313294)

Well shit, just buy the fan made sequel for pennies and roll it into the "ultimate Kings Quest Pack -- now with free, updated content!". Good will towards the community, plus a lot more (good) press in general for the pack.

Oh well (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312472)

Looks like they're just going to move what they already have around a bit and make Quing's Kest instead. It's not like they took a flamethrower to the guys' houses after all.

The rebels become the oppressors... (2, Interesting)

nataflux (1733716) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312486)

I remember a time when Activision made their own games, a personal favorite: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was one of them. Is it really inevitable that developers that turn into publishers become malicious to the gamers and to other developers? Hopefully such publishers (and larger developers) will go way of EA, that they deserve, I just hope that all the developers I have come to love don't go down these dark roads. Right now is really bad time for the gaming industry. Almost a dark age if you will.

Re:The rebels become the oppressors... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312550)

I remember a time when Activision made their own games, a personal favorite: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was one of them.

Huh? I was playing Kaboom, Pitfall! and Laser Blast just yesterday and was going to check out Chopper Command tomorrow ... where did that game suddenly pop up from?

Re:The rebels become the oppressors... (2, Informative)

CompassIIDX (1522813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312636)

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were always developed by Neversoft. Neversoft was acquired by Activision in 1999.

Re:The rebels become the oppressors... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312856)

Actually now is really good time for gaming industry. There has been a lot more innovation and new kind of games and polishing than ever before. Portal, Internet co-op games like Left4Dead and Borderlands, the rise of roleplaying games again like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout 3.. The upcoming Civilization V game will also change to hexes the first time in the series. Multiplayer shooter games like MW2 and Bad Company 2 have roleplaying, levels and class building elements in them. The popularity of Internet buying and Steam and other platforms, along with PS3 store and 360 XNA created really nice opportunities for indie game developers to sell their games and get audience. PS3's Heavy Rain is a lot different than other games too. I could go on, but you get the point.

I really can't see where you got this dark age of gaming industry from. I'm surprised at how good the current situation is.

btw, Activision was publisher of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, it was developed by Neversoft.

Re:The rebels become the oppressors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313172)

Adding "roleplaying" elements, or in other words turning a first person shooter into a grind-fest in order to gain access to all of the content you paid for is really just a step backwards, and if anything are just gimmicks. Online cooperative play has been around ever since the concept of an mmorpg was born, and only until games such as Halo 3, have console developers have adopted it. "Class building" elements only turn into something more than a gimmick in half a handful of games, which don't include battlefield or mw2. Of course if you can only reference within the spectrum of xbox games released in the past quarter, you probably wouldn't notice these things. And I guess it is a dark age when the console market is picking up where the pc developers left off almost 2 decades ago. Things that are considered RPGs, first person shooters, mmos, etc are just pathetic empty shells of what they used to be.

Re:The rebels become the oppressors... (1)

SuperDre (982372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313292)

Uhm.. all the games you mention haven't got anything 'innovating' it's just a rehash of stuff done before.. That doesn't mean they aren't fun.. I haven't seen a real innovating game for a long time.. but a lot of people just think they are innovating/new because they never played anything older than 5/10 years... It's all been done by now, they only difference is better graphics/physics/AI..

The Philosophy of Mine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312492)

Is this Corporate jealousy here, true IP rangling, or just a 'we must control all aspects' behavior apparently rampant in the gaming industry?

How exactly is having that fan-made project continue on the agreed terms, bad? Granted it was Vivendi, but still. Did Activision completely obliterate all of Vivendis employees after the acquisition?

Fed Up with Bad Behavior (4, Insightful)

the_bard17 (626642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312518)

One more gaming company to avoid. EA sucks because of the way they treat their programmers, not to mention milking every last drop out of each year's sports games. Ubisoft just announced draconian DRM. Now Activision is acting like a spoiled kid. They keep this up, and they can cry all they want to about pirates, lost sales, and stolen IP.

They still won't be getting any of my money.

Re:Fed Up with Bad Behavior (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312716)

Ya, no shit. There are plenty of other hobbies to pursue in life. I've already dropped music collecting/purchasing and now perhaps gaming too if this keeps up. I refuse to reward bad behavior.

Re:Fed Up with Bad Behavior (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313236)

Your comment is funny since your homepage link goes to Microsoft's homepage.

Re:Fed Up with Bad Behavior (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312962)

Add Atari (if they still exist) to the list, they have done some scummy things too.

Re:Fed Up with Bad Behavior (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313070)

Do you mean actual Atari? Or Infogrames after they bought up the trademark?

Re:Fed Up with Bad Behavior (2, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313188)

I mean the current owner of the Atari name.

The #1 reason I HATE Atari right now is the crap they pulled when they took the new Ghostbusters game and sold the rights for Europe/Australia to Sony and the game became limited-time-PlayStation-exclusive. Its that reason I refuse to buy any product that says Atari on it. I also refuse to buy any games or gaming hardware that says Sony on it for this and other reasons.

Bad press for Activision (2)

enigmatichmachine (214829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312584)

This is going to generate a lot of bad press for Activision. More than just gamers deciding not to buy their games, Game developers aren't going to want to do business with a company that pulls the rug out from under people. It's a small world out there.

Re:Bad press for Activision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313276)

Professional developers big enough for Atari to do business with, have enough money for lawyers to get an airtight license or some other leverage.

Keep in mind that business people don't give a damn about right, wrong or morals. If some company thinks they can make money off of their IP they'll make a deal with the devil himself.

Vivendi and Activision... (4, Informative)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312586)

A) Fix the summary. Because it's Vivendi that acquired Activision, not the other way around.The first sentence should say: "Activision, after being acquired Vivendi,..."(or something similar)
B) With KQ in mind, what the summary should say, is "Activision, having become a parent company of Sierra,..."
C) Since Vivendi is still the owner of Activision (Vivendi owns ActivisionBizzard and ActivisionBlizzard owns Activision) there should not be any talks about changes of ownership. They may shuffle around their IP, but it's still owned by Vivendi.

So... (1, Troll)

PhasmatisApparatus (1086395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312606)

... who is surprised by this? Lots of fan projects have been shut down in recent years. Chrono Resurrection, Crimson Echoes, Halogen, etc. Anyone working on a fangame at this point and not taking drastic measures to ensure that they are not infringing on trademarks or copyright gets zero sympathy from me when they get their eventual C&D.

It's a sad catch-22 that to drum up interest in your game project you need to base it on an existing franchise. As long as people are willing to latch onto any small glimmer of hope that their favorite nostalgic game will be remade in modern times, there will be fangames. And they will be shut down.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312846)

Let's be fair here, two of those were not "shut down", but rather abandoned by their developers who used a cover story to save face. One of them was even a ROM hack, and there's no legal way to have those shut down, even in the US - just ook at the number of ROM hacks around for evidence.

In any case, all these guys need to so is switch to overseas hosting. I really doubt Activision care enough about a non-commercial project to go to the hassle of shutting down an overseas server.

what a modder thinks (2, Insightful)

GarretSidzaka (1417217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312614)

this is serious bullshit. ive been a modder for years now and i know about fair use. the companies that hold the rights of the games i work on LOVE modding as it increases sales and replay value. Activision you are showing your corporate decay.

Re:what a modder thinks (1)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313304)

This isn't a mod, though. By changing an existing product, modders typically don't distribute material that infringes upon existing intellectual property (theoretically, at least: I know this isn't always true in practice).

TSL was an entirely new project, built using a new engine, and prominently featuring Sierra IP. In order to release it, the team would have had to release offending IP by definition, and so it's a different kettle of fish. However, given that the team already had a non-commercial license from the previous IP holder, I won't dispute that it makes Activision look like scumbags.

Re:what a modder thinks (1)

GarretSidzaka (1417217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313350)

the license part might just be the most offensive. there is truly patent IP hysteria going on. i doubt that they are going to renew this IP as an official product ever, so why be so evil to a thriving community. they shoulda hired these fellas, they probably know how to make a decent game.

How fuckin stupid can one be?? (3, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312686)

They could have simply paid the team a bit of money to get it finished, and then offer them to do the distribution. Something like that.
Which would basically resulted in free money from the work of others (for the service of distribution).

But nooo...
Idiots.

Re:How fuckin stupid can one be?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313216)

yup those billionaire software company owners know nothing next to you sat in your basement telling them how its done.

The ugly warts of free software (0, Troll)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312728)

IANAL, but everyone has to be on their toes these days.

Phoenix Online Studios appears to be a hobbyist collective, and as such is not afforded legal protections of a corporation (Inc., LLC, S-Corp etc) -- an entity protected by the law to pursue profit-making ventures. It's not surprising that they caved to the cease-and-desist because the individuals in the collective could be named and pursued vigorously in a lawsuit.

If they were a for-profit company and entered into an agreement with Vivendi and Activision failed to honor it, they could be sued for breach of contract. Yes, yes, there was a fan license granted by Vivendi whose terms remain unpublished. Chances are there is a severability clause that they signed to and forgot about. Oops.

People who give freely into free and open source projects have to really understand that they are giving away their labors as charity -- but more importantly they have little recourse and motivation to dig their heels in without having the protections of a corporation trying to make a profit.

Silver lining? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31312756)

The only silver lining I could see to this if it means that Activision wanted to develop the game itself. Unless that is the case, I am greatly saddened by this article.

Re:Silver lining? (1)

planetoid (719535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313374)

Do you want to pick up a mint from the pawn shop storekeeper's dish? You can, with the Genie's Treats DLC for the low, low price of $9.99 plus tax!

Activision did not acquire Vivendi. (4, Insightful)

Shandalar (1152907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31312798)

Activision did not acquire Vivendi. The merged company retained the ATVI stock listing, and Bobby Kotick is running the company, true; but VU got more board seats than Activision. If anything, VU bought Activision.

Re:Activision did not acquire Vivendi. (1)

Wildfire Darkstar (208356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313298)

IANAL, but as I understand it there's not much difference between a merger and an acquisition. Properly speaking, a merger happens when when company acquires another. There's a commonly accepted practical difference that has to do with what the company looks like after the acquisition, but that's all.

When a publisher purchases a studio and keeps it more or less intact and removed, that's considered an acquisition. Similarly so when a company is purchased and essentially broken down for spare parts/intellectual property. But when the acquired company is integrated into the acquiring company (and especially when there's a name change involved), it's considered a merger.

Square Enix is an example: legally speaking, Enix bought Square, but the resulting corporate hierarchy more closely resembled Square than Enix. As you say, Activision is another example.

Thinking fast on your feet (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313038)

In unrelated news, "Queen's Journey, the Saga of Gwendolyn's Adventures and Tribulations", should be ready soon.

WTF (2, Insightful)

Meneth (872868) | more than 4 years ago | (#31313134)

They worked at it for 8 years, and now they just lay down and quit? Have these people NO self-respect?

Falling down on the job /. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31313232)

"Set a limit of 10 years or similar, after which if there are no new games (and even films) then the universe/characters enter into the public domain like is done for copyright.

This gives enough time for a company to continue a series, and allows fans of franchises that have not seen activity by a company free reign."

Come on, somebody make a Duke Nukem joke.

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