Finding a great name for your products is hard enough, so when you land upon the right one, you want to do everything you can to hold onto it. After all, good names help to sell products, and bad ones can similarly dissuade consumers, unfairly or not. Branding does matter, and it does work, else it wouldn’t continue to exist as it does. So when a trademark case forces a company to rebrand or alter a product name, the cost is in more than the dollars spend in implementing those changes but in the damage possibly done to your public perception.
Timothy Geigner at Techdirt recounts the history of Monster Energy’s aggressive and litigious assertion of their trademark rights, including in cases where the infringement is specious at best, or more often non-existent. But, as with others who seem to enjoy nothing more than to pursue action on behalf of their IP, the point isn’t whether the case itself is sound; it’s about how many companies or individuals are unwilling to fight back at all.
In this case, Monster found a winner in Ubisoft, the video game developer based out of France. Ubisoft had announced a new video game entitled “Gods & Monsters” and had filed for the mark on that name, only for Monster Energy to register their opposition to the mark. On what grounds? That’s hard to say; it’s difficult to imagine the confusion that might result between a console game and an energy drink that predates said game by years, and had Ubisoft and its legal team pressed the question, it’s entirely likely that a judge would have come up similarly short in answering it.
Despite having a seemingly winnable case on their hands, Ubisoft chose not to try their luck in court but rather to simply retitle the game. Thus did “Gods & Monsters” become “Immortals Fenyx Rising,” which, as a Phoenician who is a fan of both the local soccer club and the English language, offends on every level.
It’s unfair to posit Ubisoft as being somehow cowardly for choosing not to take up the case, however. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process, and given that developing games at the AAA level demands all of the time and money and attention a developer can give, changing the name probably seemed the prudent move to avoid costly delays to the release. Still, it wounds to see a misuse of the system work, even if Monster Energy profited no more than a boost in confidence to continue doing the same thing, to companies equally undeserving of the headache.