Blizzard runs into Overwatch trademark trouble

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Mercy Overwatch 007

Blizzard's team-based FPS Overwatch, which was announced with great fanfare at BlizzCon, may end up with an entirely new title by the time it's rolled out to the public. It turns out that an application for a trademark on the word "Overwatch" has already been filed for a paintball-related game/smartphone app—you can check that out here, should you so desire—and the attorney examining Blizzard's filing made a mistake in letting it through.

The US Patent and Trademark Office suspended the Overwatch application last week, stating in the suspension notice that "the trademark examining attorney noted a prior pending application that, if it matured to registration, may result in the refusal of applicant’s mark under Trademark Act Section 2(d) because of a likelihood of confusion between the two marks." The attorney in question issued an "Office Action," but should have suspended the application outright.

It's clearly not Blizzard's fault—the statement includes an apology for any inconvenience—but its trademark filing is nonetheless dead in the water "until the earlier-filed application is either registered or abandoned."

Less clear is Blizzard's next step. It can "respond" to the notice, but there's no indication as to the value or potential outcomes of doing so. It could also opt to buy Innovis Labs, I suppose, or throw money at it until it agrees to give up the name; or it could opt to simply change the name of its own game. Which is probably the most sensible option, since I don't think anyone is terribly attached to it yet, but I certainly wouldn't presume to make any predictions about the convoluted world of trademark law.

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.