Developers ‘Stoic’ are just now getting recognition for ‘The Banner Saga.’
Hailed as a hauntingly beautiful survival tale, The Banner Saga is a turn based strategy game in which Nordic Vikings and Horned Giants fight to survive against the steel fury of a race of golems and the wintery wrath of a frozen, godless world.
King are contesting Stoic’s right to use the term Saga in their title. In fact they filed a Notice of Opposition with the US Patent and Trademark Office under the grounds that The Banner Saga is “deceptively similar” to their aforementioned Saga range.
And once more, for clarity, because this is really the crux of the matter…
King make Candy Crush Saga – A match three puzzle game about aligning sweets.
Stoic make The Banner Saga – A turn-based apocalyptic RPG bristling with Giants, Golems, Vikings and fallen deities.
Needless to say, the internet has generally been calling bullsh*t all day.
Eurogamer diligently reached out to King for a statement.
Let’s take a closer look at this reply, try and figure out what that smell is…
"King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name…”
The term Notice of Opposition begs to differ. As does the more specific line, “Opposer [King] asks that its opposition to this application be sustained and that registration of the term THE BANNER SAGA for the goods/services set forth therein be refused.”
“We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content.”
A direct quotation from the aforementioned notice states “The use and registration by Applicant [Stoic] of the mark The Banner Saga for Applicant's [Stoic’s] goods is likely to cause confusion or to cause mistake or deception in the trade, and among purchasers and potential purchasers”
Off to a less than convincing start. Let’s press on…
“However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future. In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion.”
Player confusion? Between the free to play chirpy puzzle game you play on your phone and the €23 harrowing Viking epic you need a personal computer to run?
“If we had not opposed Banner Saga's trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of 'Saga' was legitimate.”
This reads like an admission, by King, that The Banner Saga is indeed NOT a ‘real copy cat’ and King are opposing a ‘legitimate’ use of ‘Saga’ to dissuade future illegitimate uses.
At least it does to me.
But then I can actually tell the difference between liquorice allsorts and GIANT VIKINGS!
"This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.”
And because of a long legacy of dealing with clones on the assorted app stores, King deem it prudent to file A Notice of Opposition to A PC TURN BASED VIKING FANTASY RPG that states, "The Banner Saga mark is confusingly and deceptively similar to Opposer's [King’s] previously used Saga Marks...Applicant’s [Stoic’s] goods overlap with Opposer’s [King’s] businesses… ”
I can appreciate Trademark law is involved, in-depth and crucially important for any company that wants to protect its IP. However, when protection amounts to little more than bullying indie game devs when their first title is barely out the front door, as you can see, we tend to call bullsh*t.
Probably because that’s exactly what this is…
But do feel free to investigate for yourselves.
The Eurogamer Statement can be found here.
And the controversial Notice of Opposition can be scanned over here.