Alien Wasteland was a low-budget FPS which invited players to “battle (their) way through hordes of aliens from canyon deserts to tropical islands”. Developed by one man studio Dan Games, it sells for around $4.99 and has done so since it released in June last year. Alas, as of yesterday Alien Wasteland is no more: it’s now known as the slightly less elegant Action Alien.
The reason? inXile, the studio responsible for Wasteland 2, sent Dan Games an email claiming the name Alien Wasteland was an infringement to their “Wasteland” trademark. When Dan Games failed to change the name after a direct approach from inXile, the small studio received a cease and desist letter.
“Because both games have almost nothing in common and no case of confusion was ever reported for almost two years since my game was first announced, I have been calmly explaining through long emails why we should have no worries about this,” developer Devdan wrote in . “But I finally ended up receiving a cease and desist letter from their lawyer asking to either stop using "wasteland" or to prepare facing legal actions against me.”
A spokesperson for inXile later confirmed the news in the studio’s forums, and defended the company’s rights to protect its trademark. “We reached out to the developer of The Alien Wasteland (now Action Alien) directly looking to find an amicable resolution without involving lawyers,” the . “The C&D only happened because the developer was unwilling to recognize the issue, only offering to change the game's name if we paid him for it. Asking to be paid for infringing on someone’s rights is certainly a new one for us, so of course we refused.”
Trademark infringement is the source of many a controversy in the games industry: most notably, Bethesda’s objection to Mojang’s use of for its CCG. In that case, Mojang ended up keeping the name. While it’s thoroughly unlikely that anyone would confuse Wasteland 2 with Alien Wasteland, the Kafka-esque complexity of trademark law is not something a small, one-man studio is wise to get involved with.
“Since I don't have the time nor the strength to deal with legal actions from this developer and its lawyers, or even taking the risk of having my game to be took down from Steam, I decided to change the title to solve this issue, even though this has been a great loss in time and efforts for a very questionable complain,” Devdan wrote.