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