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Blizzard Disputing Valve’s Trademarking of DOTA

A long expected clash between Blizzard and Valve is finally happening.

DOTA wouldn't exist without Warcraft III, which is a huge part of Blizzard's claims to the name.

The future of DOTA--at least the name, anyway--is now in the hands of the legal world.

A trademark dispute filed by Blizzard Entertainment against Valve has been unearthed, which I’ve spent the better part of an hour looking at and trying to make sense off alongside Mr. Shoemaker.

Blizzard filed its original complaint on November 16 (read it here), and Valve filed its response on December 22 (read that here).

Valve is pushing forward with DOTA 2, having acquired one of the principal creative minds behind the original DOTA, Abdul “IceFrog” Ismail, back in 2010. Blizzard doesn’t believe Valve has the right to call its game DOTA, and makes several arguments to support this.

The argument Blizzard makes most frequently involves the fact that DOTA was developed as a mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. When you install Warcraft III, you agree to Blizzard’s EULA (End User License Agreement), which states all material created with the game’s tools, including the editor that helped birth DOTA, is Blizzard's property.

Thus, Blizzard owns DOTA. So says Blizzard.

“Over the past seven years, the mark DOTA has been used exclusively in connection with Blizzard and its products, namely Warcraft III,” reads Blizzard’s filing. “Most notably, DOTA has been used as the popular name of a Warcraft III software "mod" file that has been distributed, marketed, and promoted by Blizzard and its fans (under license from Blizzard).”

Blizzard allowed its community to use the term DOTA “under license.” Valve’s argument appears to hinge on the EULA not actually granting Blizzard any real-world rights to the term--or at least enough to stop Valve from using it--and when Valve decided to officially trademark DOTA in August 2010, Valve assumed legal control of the term.

Valve did not get into many specifics in responding to Blizzard’s arguments, however.

“Valve admits that the EULA contains a non-exclusive license agreement,” reads parts of Valve’s response. “The terms of the EULA speak for themselves and no admission or denial regarding the legal effect of the terms of the EULA is required.”

Some of the artwork that first surfaced for DOTA 2, when the trademark issues first came up.

“Valve denies the use of DOTA marks by Valve and its predecessors in interest is under license from or for the benefit of Blizzard,” it continues.

It could be the better part of a year before this is sorted out, including a scenario where this goes back-and-forth until February 2013, when Blizzard’s final rebuttal period would end. Given that Valve would probably want to release DOTA 2 sometime in 2012, movement before then (perhaps a settlement) seems likely.

Blizzard commented on the situation in both 2010 and 2011.

“Certainly, DOTA came out of the Blizzard community,” said Blizzard VP of game design Rob Pardo to Eurogamer back in 2010. “It just seems a really strange move to us that Valve would go off and try to exclusively trademark the term considering it's something that's been freely available to us and everyone in the Warcraft III community up to this point.

This was echoed by Blizzard president Mike Morhaime last fall.

"I can share that our opinion about the situation is that the DOTA name really should belong to the community,” said Morhaime, again to Eurogamer. “I think that it's been part of the Warcraft 3 community for a very long time, and we would like to see the community continue being able to use that name, and having an exclusive mark owned by a competitor doesn't feel right to us."

Patrick Klepek on Google+
248 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek
DOTA wouldn't exist without Warcraft III, which is a huge part of Blizzard's claims to the name.

The future of DOTA--at least the name, anyway--is now in the hands of the legal world.

A trademark dispute filed by Blizzard Entertainment against Valve has been unearthed, which I’ve spent the better part of an hour looking at and trying to make sense off alongside Mr. Shoemaker.

Blizzard filed its original complaint on November 16 (read it here), and Valve filed its response on December 22 (read that here).

Valve is pushing forward with DOTA 2, having acquired one of the principal creative minds behind the original DOTA, Abdul “IceFrog” Ismail, back in 2010. Blizzard doesn’t believe Valve has the right to call its game DOTA, and makes several arguments to support this.

The argument Blizzard makes most frequently involves the fact that DOTA was developed as a mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. When you install Warcraft III, you agree to Blizzard’s EULA (End User License Agreement), which states all material created with the game’s tools, including the editor that helped birth DOTA, is Blizzard's property.

Thus, Blizzard owns DOTA. So says Blizzard.

“Over the past seven years, the mark DOTA has been used exclusively in connection with Blizzard and its products, namely Warcraft III,” reads Blizzard’s filing. “Most notably, DOTA has been used as the popular name of a Warcraft III software "mod" file that has been distributed, marketed, and promoted by Blizzard and its fans (under license from Blizzard).”

Blizzard allowed its community to use the term DOTA “under license.” Valve’s argument appears to hinge on the EULA not actually granting Blizzard any real-world rights to the term--or at least enough to stop Valve from using it--and when Valve decided to officially trademark DOTA in August 2010, Valve assumed legal control of the term.

Valve did not get into many specifics in responding to Blizzard’s arguments, however.

“Valve admits that the EULA contains a non-exclusive license agreement,” reads parts of Valve’s response. “The terms of the EULA speak for themselves and no admission or denial regarding the legal effect of the terms of the EULA is required.”

Some of the artwork that first surfaced for DOTA 2, when the trademark issues first came up.

“Valve denies the use of DOTA marks by Valve and its predecessors in interest is under license from or for the benefit of Blizzard,” it continues.

It could be the better part of a year before this is sorted out, including a scenario where this goes back-and-forth until February 2013, when Blizzard’s final rebuttal period would end. Given that Valve would probably want to release DOTA 2 sometime in 2012, movement before then (perhaps a settlement) seems likely.

Blizzard commented on the situation in both 2010 and 2011.

“Certainly, DOTA came out of the Blizzard community,” said Blizzard VP of game design Rob Pardo to Eurogamer back in 2010. “It just seems a really strange move to us that Valve would go off and try to exclusively trademark the term considering it's something that's been freely available to us and everyone in the Warcraft III community up to this point.

This was echoed by Blizzard president Mike Morhaime last fall.

"I can share that our opinion about the situation is that the DOTA name really should belong to the community,” said Morhaime, again to Eurogamer. “I think that it's been part of the Warcraft 3 community for a very long time, and we would like to see the community continue being able to use that name, and having an exclusive mark owned by a competitor doesn't feel right to us."

Staff
Posted by emkeighcameron

Huh.

Posted by phrosnite

GTFO Blizzard! You greedy bastards!

Posted by Dustpan

That watermark.

Posted by Cogzwell

Dota is not blizzard's, the guy who made it should have the rights. If blizzard wants to protect their community they should acknowledge that, but I'm sure those days are behind them.

Posted by Sammo21

Unfortunately, since its a mod of a blizzard game it probably gets messy. They should have just went the Valve route and got the good mods in under their studio (DOD, CSS). This is probably something the Activision side is pushing.

Edited by alibson

Yeah whatever dog, while you're fighting over there I'll be playing League of Legends

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Valve should have just changed the name! Valve Game. They could have named it that, and it would sell. They don't need the DOTA name.

Moderator
Posted by TheHT

Team Valve.

Posted by rentfn

It will all work it's self out when Blizzard makes Counter-Strike WoW

Edited by jozzy

Valve seems to be the bad guy here. Blizzard never tried to "own" the term DOTA, but Valve did. Would be weird that future Blizzard games can't have mods named DOTA anymore.

@Cogzwell said:

Dota is not blizzard's, the guy who made it should have the rights. If blizzard wants to protect their community they should acknowledge that, but I'm sure those days are behind them.

That guy didn't make DOTA, he is not the original creator. It's made by a number of people, which is what Blizzaed means with "It belongs to the community".

Posted by RE_Player1

I'm with Valve on this one.

Edited by Poki3

I'm partially of the side of Blizzard, in that Valve shouldn't be using the "DOTA" name, but neither is Blizzard. DOTA is a community made map, and no single person or entity has the right to trademark that :/

Guinsoo (original creator of Dota-Allstars), who now forks for Riot Games (League of Legends), and Pendragon also had some sort of trademark complaint going.

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

To be fair, trademarking DOTA in general seems kind of dumb. It's practically a sub-genre at this point, and it seems sort of weirdly... lazy, I guess, to just call it DOTA 2?

Posted by Mumrik

I'm sure Blizzard means that they own the name Defense of the Ancients.

There HAD to be SOME reason Valve dropped the full title and just called it DOTA.

Posted by MattyFTM

Valve should have never trademarked the term. They have absolutely no rights over the name. It was created by the Warcraft 3 community, it belongs to those community members, or Blizzard depending on the specifics of the EULA. I honestly don't see how Valve have a leg to stand on in this. Naming it DOTA 2 is one thing, the direction they're taking very clearly makes it somewhat of a successor to DOTA, but claiming trademark rights over that name just seems totally weird and illogical.

Moderator
Posted by DaBuddaDa

"The future of DOTA is now in the hands of the legal world" is a bit hyperbolic. Even if Valve loses this case over a year from now they can still call the game Dota 2 and will have already built a massive community around it. It just would allow other companies to make things called Dota as well.

Posted by jozzy

@Pr1mus said:

They had seven years to trademark it themselves.

Also if their main concern is really that they wish that Dota continue to belong to the community, i really doubt this is going to be any different if Valve owns the name. That company has been built on the work of the communities supporting their games.

Blizzard didn't try to trademark it because they realized it belonged to the community and not them, it's Valve who trademarked it for exclusive use. I can't see how anyone would side with Valve here, they clearly want to monopolize the term.

Posted by spartanlolz92

actually it was quite smart of them to wait this lone to file it. think about it if they release right when the game is about to come out they put blizzard in a bind because they dont just want to sit there with product on there hands you lose money that way.

all blizzard is doing is making a cash grab basically saying settle with us and we wont be a pain in your ass which is most likely what valve will do.

very smary yet very a** holeish but its bussiness

Posted by patrickklepek

@DaBuddaDa said:

"The future of DOTA is now in the hands of the legal world" is a bit hyperbolic. Even if Valve loses this case over a year from now they can still call the game Dota 2 and will have already built a massive community around it. It just would allow other companies to make things called Dota as well.

You're right. I just tweaked that line.

Staff
Posted by NoRemnants

One thing you guys don't seem to understand is that Blizzard is not trying to trademark it. They are simply trying to block Valve from trademarking it so that anyone can freely use the DOTA name. Valve could still call their game "Dota 2" if they really want to. They just don't own exclusive rights to it.

Posted by DarthOrange

Blizzard is right. A EULA was agreed to and anything Valve does at this point to come out on top will be exploiting loop holes.

Posted by Kidavenger

Good points on both sides; DOTA 2 is a stupid name, and I think Valve has milked the publicity enough now that everyone will know about their game no matter what it is called, so I hope this encourages them to just change the name.

Posted by Xeteh

Can we all just agree to blame Kotick?!

Posted by Slaegar

RAAR ACTIVISION WANT MOAR MONEY

Posted by TorMasturba

I feel like Valve wouldn't have gone for this without doing large amounts of legal research prior to production on their DOTA game.

Besides Blizzard fans have made a lot of noise about DOTA and wanting blizzard to made a sequel to it and they didn't give it a second thought, and now that Valve have shown them how popular DOTA is they want it back.

That's like wanting the baby back after you've vehemently thrown it into the adoption circles. You either want it or you don't Blizzard, can't have it both ways!

Posted by DaBuddaDa

They should rename their game to DOTATWO. Problem solved.

Posted by mbr2

DotA is just a name just like Team Fortress once was (id didn't try to sue Valve when they wanted to make TFC with Robin Walker. It didn't stop Riot and S2 from making their own "DotA" styled game and it's not gonna stop companies from making those in the future either. Valve is not trademarking game mechanics, in-game abilities or levels. Now the bitch of all of this is that Blizzard during Blizzcon 2011 fucking announced 'Starcraft DOTA' they even had a logo for it and all. Fuck you Blizzard, fucking hypocrites.

Posted by GalacticGravy

I get that people know the name "Dota" but all Valve needs that name for is branding. They want the name DOTA so people (presumably those interested in DOTA from WC3) don't have to research the game. They just see DOTA2 and go "I remember DOTA, I will play this now."

So what if they nabbed the name, knowing full well that this was coming? The just need to raise awareness of the game (using DOTA as a brand), and at the last minute change it. The name is just there so people who don't follow the gaming community can automatically know what it is and understand that they want to play this game.

Posted by mbr2

@DarthOrange said:

Blizzard is right. A EULA was agreed to and anything Valve does at this point to come out on top will be exploiting loop holes.

Please point me to where in the WC3 EULA it's says that "every name, acronym and game mechanic you create with our editor we legally own." Then why haven't they sued S2 and Riot???

Posted by pw2566ch

@Poki3 said:

I'm partially of the side of Blizzard, in that Valve shouldn't be using the "DOTA" name, but neither is Blizzard. DOTA is a community made map, and no single person or entity has the right to trademark that :/

This I agree with. Valve shouldn't trademark the name and Blizzard shouldn't try to take ownership through their EULA.

Edited by JokerSmilez

@mbr2: How are they hypocrites? I don't think you understand what this legal battle is about.

It's about Valve trying to obtain the exclusive rights to the name "DOTA", which Blizzard is saying that can't do. They're not trying to say that Valve can't call their thing DOTA 2 or can't make a DOTA-style game, just that Valve shouldn't be allowed to own the term "DOTA" and prevent other people from using the term. That's it.

They're not saying to Valve, "you can't call your game that because we own the term" they're saying "you can't own the term".

@TorMasturba: It's not about wanting "DOTA back", it's about preventing Valve from having exclusive ownership over the term "DOTA", which is what Valve is trying to do.

To quote Blizzard's legal complaint:

By this Opposition, Blizzard seeks to prevent registration by its competitor Valve Corporation ("Valve") of a trademark, DOTA, that for more than seven years has been used exclusively by Blizzard and its fan community, under license from Blizzard.

Posted by MeatSim

I am surprised it took them this long to dispute it.

Posted by Zor

Wouldn't Blizzard assertion also open them up to thousands of lawsuits? I mean if, "all material created with the game’s tools ... is Blizzard's property" then aren't they also saying that they own all those unlicensed maps (the ones that were based off movies or books)? And if so, can't the companies that do own those licenses sue them for using their IPs without permission?

Edited by mbr2

@Make_Me_Mad said:

To be fair, trademarking DOTA in general seems kind of dumb. It's practically a sub-genre at this point, and it seems sort of weirdly... lazy, I guess, to just call it DOTA 2?

The genre is called MOBA, DotA is a mod. It's like calling the FPS genre Wolfenstein.

Posted by Branwulf

I was suprised they went with DOTA 2 in the first place, this was always going to happen, I'm curious to see who wins anyway, popcorn at the ready.

Posted by mbr2

I just want to know what the creator of the Starcraft mod Aeon of Strife has to say about all of this.

Posted by Nals

Just to point out, Blizzard is not trying to reopen the name DotA, or really even just dispute the name "for the community", the way this dispute is worded, if Blizzard wins, they will trademark DotA to themselves.

So yeah, this is more Blizzard being greedy then Blizzard trying to advance the cause of the average modmaker, they saw the success of DotA and are planning to use the standard Blizzard schtick of taking an already created idea, and then refining it, and want the namebrand behind it to help sell copies. If they win, they will own all rights to the DotA brand name, or more accurately Activision will, which is not a good thing for Valve/anyone else at all.

This really brings up a lot of legal issues that kind of suck, if I make a full game in the Skyrim Creation kit for example, does that game belong to Bethesda, or to me, and if a few years down the road I make another game under the same name/IP, can Bethesda claim rights to the IP? Imagine if the Nehrim guys tried making another Nehrim game in a few years with their own engine and everything, would Bethesda be in the right for claiming they can't because Nehrim belongs to them? Bethesda would look like pricks, so why doesn't Blizzard here.

Edited by CornBREDX

I said this on the forum post about this, but this all just seems like normal business posturing. Blizzard protecting a trademark/playing the good guys "we just want our community to keep being able to use it you guys". 
 
Valve wants to make DOTA2 (which is still weird and I don't get why they're doing all this) and doesn't care what Blizzard thinks cus Blizzard never did anything with it. 
 
The whole thing is weird, but corporate wise it just feels like posturing to me. I could be wrong though, that's just how it comes off.

Posted by Tidel

Two megarich corporations fighting over the rights to something neither created.

Edited by hermes

I tend to side with Valve, since I consider lawsuits of this nature to be executive meddling of the worst kind, on things that could be easily solved with a coffee in a restaurant between Newell and Morhaime.

However, this whole DOTA thing has been shady as shit. Imagine what would happened if Blizzard had hired Minh Le and Jess Cliffe and asked them to make a game called Counter Strike 2 (of course, before Valve has secured the rights), which should be analogue and fair, since CS is nothing more than a mod of Half-Life. I doubt Valve would have taken it lightly...

Also, seeing the promotional material for DOTA 2 puts a lot of things in perspective. One could argue that some of the heroes are rather generic, but Valve isn't even trying to hide the Warcraft origins of the game...

Posted by Detrian

Blizzard acting on this with the usual pep you'd see in its step. Always slow, always out of touch.

Posted by Forcen

As far as i know, Valve only trademarked Dota 2. Not DOTA.

Edited by cyraxible

So Blizzard is throwing a tantrum because they didn't think of this first.

Since no single entity owned it in the first place, the community hardly counts people, those who lay claim to it first and have people who have history with DOTA working on it definitely have the right to own it.

This is more like a pet-project for Valve because they all loved Dota, hell I think I remember hearing it's what Gabe plays the most these days.

Acti-Blizzard can suck a fat one.

Posted by MikeGosot

Just name it "Defense Of The Elders". Nobody will care.

Posted by hermes

@Forcen: Great, let me trademark Half Life 3... Its not like Valve is doing anything with it, and I am sure no one will see a problem in that.

Posted by Korne

@cyraxible said:

So Blizzard is throwing a tantrum because they didn't think of this first.

Since no single entity owned it in the first place, the community hardly counts people, those who lay claim to it first and have people who have history with DOTA working on it definitely have the right to own it.

This is more like a pet-project for Valve because they all loved Dota, hell I think I remember hearing it's what Gabe plays the most these days.

Acti-Blizzard can suck a fat one.

Doubt this is a pet project for Valve since MOBA games are becoming the most commercially successful and popular games on the market (watch out FPS). And all EULA terms of agreements state that anything created with mods for the game are technically owned by publisher, in this case Blizzard. Pendragon and Guinsoo at Riot games were pretty amazed that Valve was trying to snatch up the name DOTA since they had no involvement in the making of that game (Icefrog did, but he was such a small part of it). It would be like if THQ had copyrighted Team Fortress 2 before Valve, or EA copyrighted CounterStrike 2. I'm pretty sure Valve would be upset (and would bring it to court).

I expect either a pretty large settlement or Blizzard to just outright win this battle, especially now that they are coming out with their own DOTA 2.

Posted by theanticitizen

Just rename it Iron Brigade and we're all set!

Posted by NDN_Shadow

A minor gripe, but Abdul Ismail was never confirmed to be IceFrog's real name. His real name has never publicly been revealed and that was the name given to him by a not-so-credible blog post from a former Valve employee.

Dota has had 3 caretakers since it's beginning. First was Eul, who may or may not be working for Valve as well, second was Guinsoo, who now works at RiotGames, and finally IceFrog, the current caretaker and employee of Valve.

Posted by Arrested_Developer

They'll call it Doda.