Other developers can still use the word “cyberpunk.”
After releasing the critically acclaimed The Witcher 3 in 2015, Polish developer CD Projekt Red began turning its focus toward Cyberpunk 2077, a game for which a recent European trademark filing by the studio set off some alarm bells among some cyberpunk fans.
After the trademark was approved yesterday, CD Projekt Red attempted to calm fears over it on Twitter. The studio stated it only plans to rely on the trademark to protect its own work in acts of “self-defense” rather than to aggressively fight others who want to use the now-trademarked word.
“Life knows quite a few examples of companies registering marks similar to well-known marks, and then trying to sell them for big money,” CD Projekt tweeted yesterday. “Should we ever decide to create a sequel, there’s a possibility of someone telling us we can’t name it, say, ‘Cyberpunk 2078’ or ‘Cyberpunk 2.’ 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.'”
Further, CD Projekt believes the trademark is necessary to defend itself from “unlawful actions of unfair competitors.” The developer believes this is necessary for it to protect the work it’s been putting into Cyberpunk 2077, a game it announced all the way back in 2012.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who played The Witcher 3, CD Projekt described Cyberpunk 2077 as “massive” and said the team has “already invested a lot of hard work and resources into making it the best game we can.”
Over on Reddit, however, one cyberpunk fan voiced concern that CD Projekt would prevent anyone from using the term, which in addition to being an intellectual property is also a genre. While many Reddit users pointed out that this was likely a move intended only for CD Projekt to protect itself, some voiced similar concerns to the original poster.
The developer’s tweet insists this is not the case, pointing out that trademarks don’t work that way. Further, the word was already trademarked years ago in the United States by R. Talsorian Games, the publisher of the original 1980s pen-and-paper Cyberpunk franchise upon which CD Projekt’s game is based. CD Projekt acquired that trademark in 2011 before publicly announcing its game.
“Use of a protected word in a title may be prohibited only if it could confuse the customers,” reads the studio’s tweet. “The trademark right cannot prohibit using a word as a descriptive term, as speaking about a genre of games, films, etc. The role of the trademark, which differs from a copyright or patent, is only to protect words, signs used as titles of games, names of products, etc.”
Other developers are still free to set their games in cyberpunk worlds or even use cyberpunk in their titles. CD Projekt used the hypothetical John Smith: Adventures in a Cyberpunk Dystopian Society and 20 Short Video Games Set in Cyberpunk Worlds as examples of game titles that would still be OK for other developers to use despite the trademark. CD Projekt claims it would only use the trademark in cases where a game’s name could potentially confuse consumers into thinking it was somehow part of the same Cyberpunk franchise the Polish developer owns, such as the aforementioned Cyberpunk 2 or Cyberpunk 2078.
Cyberpunk 2077, which CD Projekt Red has previously said is even bigger than the humungous Witcher 3, does not have a release date.