December 22, 2003 12:26 PM PST

Video game maker sues Microsoft

Video game maker Mythic Entertainment has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, charging the software giant with trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Mythic, which specializes in multiplayer online games, contends that an upcoming video game from Microsoft dubbed "Mythica" infringes on its name and trademarks. The company said on Monday that a prerelease of and marketing materials for the Microsoft game, designed to be played over the Internet, violate its established brands under state and federal laws.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mythic contends that the title of the Microsoft game is likely to cause confusion among consumers. The Washington, D.C.-based company said it is seeking a permanent injunction against Microsoft to prevent it using the name and is asking for related financial damages, including legal fees.

"We have worked hard for eight years to earn our reputation for producing high quality online games, including games that compete successfully with those offered by the biggest corporations in the world, such as Microsoft," Mark Jacobs, chief executive of Mythic, said in a statement. "We cannot allow Microsoft to usurp our rights, confuse the public, and use the Mythic brand to gain an unfair competitive advantage."

Executives at Mythic were quick to point out that taking legal action against Microsoft was the company's last resort. Jacobs said in an interview on Monday that Mythic first filed its suit on Nov. 12, but only served Microsoft last week, after the software maker chose not to pull the Mythica name.

"We handled this differently than other companies would have," he said. "What it boils down to is, we want to be able to continue to use our name. We gave Microsoft every alternative to a lawsuit in the matter, but they refused to make a change. It would have cost them almost nothing to do so, and now we'll both end up paying for expensive proceedings."

Microsoft representatives said they would not comment on any pending litigation.

Jacobs said the suit does not begin to address what he sees as glaring similarities between the game Microsoft is calling "Mythica" and Mythic's own "Dark Age of Camelot" series. According to Jacobs, the prerelease version of Microsoft's game appears to have a number of parallels with Mythic's products, including the use of comparable names for specific levels. Jacobs said he believes Microsoft should pay to clear up any confusion between the two games, which it could perhaps do via advertisements or an explanatory marketing campaign.

"We're not trying to get them to stop making the game. But when you take everything together--the similar setting of the games, some of the shared terminology and the name--it just comes off as deceptive," Jacobs said. "How would Microsoft react if someone introduced an operating system named 'Microsoftic'? We've already seen how upset they were by Lindows."

Microsoft is suing Lindows, maker of a version of the open-source Linux operating system with an interface that resembles Windows, for alleged infringement of its Windows trademark in the United States.

Last week, the software giant became caught in another legal dispute when streaming media provider RealNetworks filed suit against the company, alleging it illegally used its Windows monopoly to limit consumer choice in digital media.

 

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