Blizzard Square Off With Valve Over DOTA

By Quintin Smith on October 25th, 2010 at 10:33 am.

If I were Valve, I'd just trademark Dohtah. It's what everyone calls it anyway, right?

Blizzard has fired a warning shot across Valve’s sleek, streamlined bow over use of the DOTA trademark.

Blizzard game design lead Rob Pardo said in an interview with Eurogamer that since Defence of the Ancients came out of the Blizzard WarCraft 3 community, Valve trademarking DotA for the purposes of developing DOTA 2 “doesn’t seem the right thing to do”.

Pardo described his reaction to the trademarking as one of “confusion”, saying that “It just seems a really strange move to us that Valve would go off and try to exclusively trademark the term considering it’s something that’s been freely available to us and everyone in the Warcraft III community up to this point.

“Valve is usually so pro mod community. It’s such a community company that it just seems like a really strange move to us… I really don’t understand why [they would do it], to be honest.”

The question is, why kick up a fuss now, as opposed to when Valve first trademarked DOTA, or when they announced DOTA 2 earlier this month?

Well, it almost certainly relates to Blizzard’s own DOTA announcement at BlizzCon this weekend- among the free, internally developed mods Blizzard is developing for StarCraft 2 is “Defence of the Ancients”, which will feature characters from StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo all taking part in a non-canonical multiplayer scrap.

When asked what would happen if Valve objected to Blizzard’s use of the DOTA name, Pardo replied “Our response is that they don’t own the term DOTA at this point. It’s something that they’re filing for.”

You see those? Those are fightin’ words. It could be that if Valve don’t give Blizzard free access to the DOTA name, the fearsome entity that is Activision Blizzard will set to work prying the DOTA trademark from Valve’s hands. And with no small amount of DOTA spinoffs already in the wild, the official name is definitely a valuable thing to have.

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237 Comments »

  1. Kristian says:

    It’s funny how Blizzard has completely ruined their reputation.

    Once respected as one of the few developers actually making quality games with atleast in the consumer eyes ‘with passion’ now is in TOP2 list of assholes along with Activision & B.K.

    Oh well. atleast we can buy EA products without feeling bad :D

    • HeavyStorm says:

      I agree 100%.

    • starclaws says:

      Still would rather buy Blizzard than EA… But you can continue to buy the same game, just redone a little bit, year after year from EA for full price if you like.

    • tomwaitsfornoman says:

      @starclaws

      Wait I thought Blizzard owned WoW?

      (obvious joke is obvious)

    • Howl says:

      Outside their ability to make polished, accessible games for the masses, I’ve never had respect for them. I’m sure most Brits have had an axe to grind with Blizzard since the start as their two main IP’s are blatant Warhammer and Warhammer 40k rip-offs. Warcraft and Starcraft ‘lore’ is laughable though but the fans seem to lap it up like the gospel.

    • Loner says:

      @Howl I could not agree more, the last original Blizzard game was The Lost Viking…

  2. Digit says:

    I’m just confused by this entire thing. Blizzard aren’t happy that Valve is making a commercial game froma successful mod? What?!

    Also RPS: I hate your CAPTCHA system, it’s showing me “kU4a” and after 6 tries, I clicked the audio button for the sheer sake of curiosity, and it says “ps2L” D: If you really must have one, can’t you use something sane, like the one that asks you questions or something? >:|

  3. Urthman says:

    Surely the DOTA trademark belongs to Basshunter?

    (Watch both videos for hilarious nerd-becomes-”cool” subplot.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OzWIFX8M-Y

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’ll say this: the one people who don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have any claim on DOTA as a name are Blizzard. You own a venue, you don’t own the band.

    KG

    • Starky says:

      Not quite fitting, It’s more like “you own a record label you don’t own the band” except you do own the music.

      Blizzard have a claim, like it or not that they are at least partial owners of the original game, given that it used their assets, code and engine.
      I’m also sure that their EULA has some bunk about any mod you make belonging to them.

    • Goatslayer says:

      Have you read the War3 EULA?

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Starky

      Woah, really? Blizzard never paid the map makers to make DotA. They just provided the loosest fundamentals.

      Maybe it should be “you made the instruments, you don’t own the band”? Although that’s somewhat misleading because making an engine does actually entitle you to a cut of whatever that engine is used in. Maybe these allegories aren’t especially helpful.

  5. HeavyStorm says:

    Without reading any of the comments (no time today): Blizz guys are right. DotA name appeared as a Warcraft 3 mod. It’s community based. In fact, it wasn’t Icefrog who coined the name, so I see no right for DOTA to be trademarked by Valve.

    Worse yet, trademark agencies should be the ones to verify this sort of thing. Trademarks, Patents, etc., are there to protect creators/inventors and such in order to keep then creating/inventing, etc. It should be win-win for both creators and community. Since Valve isn’t the creator of the DOTA name (nor is IceFrog), then there is no applicability.

    • subedii says:

      A lot of this has been addressed in the comments though, so it might be useful to look over them.

      There’s a lot of different arguments and tangents on this topic, but one of the key things is that Valve haven’t copyrighted “Defence of the Ancients”, they’ve copyrighted “DOTA” (not an acronym). The owners (or at least, prospective owners) or “Defence of the Ancients” are Riot Games.

    • Froibo says:

      Team Fortress was community made. I’m really confused as why this is coming to a surprise to anyone SOMEONE was going to do it.

  6. Tupimus says:

    I still wonder what’s with the rampant public Valve fanboy-masturbating and hating on Blizzard.

  7. Pijama says:

    Ooooooooooooh.

    I have just one thing to say: about fucking time. Been wondering if the two were going to get in a scrap or not…

    …And hopefully, Blizzard will take a swift one in the chin. Would do wonders in the benefit of self-criticism. :)

  8. starclaws says:

    Except the thing is Valve actually wants to make DOTA 2 … Blizzard just wants to make a happy fun mash-up of its 3 universes together and make a little tribute to it.

  9. Bayemon says:

    Blizzard and valve both continue their journeys to the dark side.

    That said, they still pale in comparison to the fetid cesspool that is EA.

  10. Soundofvictory says:

    What I think is a bit interesting is that although it seems like Blizzard has no say in how this plays out, these are two VERY big entities in the gaming world. It has been a while since there have been any major changes to copyright law, and it does seem possible that if both sides continue to fight it out, the end result may be different trademark laws for mods and possibly free/indie games as well. Maybe?

    Trademarking should probably get a bit of an upgrade in the face of today’s changing technological and economic climate.

  11. Ruiner66 says:

    This is hlarious. Blizzard showed almost no interest in new updated version of DOTA. But now that Valve wants to do something with it, Blizzard wants in.

    Reminds me of my pet dog. I take one of his toys, and he drops his current toy to get the one I’m holding. So I let go of that toy and pick the toy he dropped. He then drops the toy I originally had and wants back the toy he originally had.

  12. Flint says:

    Two of the few dev companies whose actions I follow with fan-giddy anticipation are brawling against eachother.

    :(

  13. Crainey says:

    Hmm tricky situation, Blizzard (the Blizzard studio excluding Activision) and Valve are my 2 all time favourite developers. Although I think with this one ill go with Valve, they never make a bad game and Blizzard isnt gonna put as much dedication into Dota as Valve. Blizzard said they were making a dota mod themselfs whereas Valve’s actualy making a sequel!

  14. tomwaitsfornoman says:

    Quinns, you are the Prince of c-c-c-c-controversy.

  15. Nessin says:

    It is crazy how insane some of you people are. I’m not even going to get into the debate on whether its right or not for Valve to trademark DOTA (acronym or not, its still a recognizable term these days), but for the love of god how many of you blind? At least half of the people here seem to be under the assumption that Blizzard is attempting to block, stop, or counter the attempt by Valve when NONE of that is the case. It is possible that Blizzard might attempt to do so in the future, but all they’ve done at this point in time is admit in an interview that they aren’t happy with the situation. Blizzard may have a lot of power in the gaming community, but their word as a denouncement of a action isn’t enough to count as actual action.

    • TariqOne says:

      Well, on the one hand you’ve got Smith, who tends significantly towards the hysterical. And on the other hand you have a segment of the RPS faithful who sort of ape/defend anything he (and the others say). It’s not usually an issue, because Rossignol, Walker, Meer, and previously Gillen were generally pretty measured, even as they snarked it up.

  16. Unaco says:

    Didn’t an American judge repeal the whole DOTA thing?

  17. Idea Man says:

    ATTENTION EVERYONE! This user is a FILTHY blizzard supporter! Let’s lynch him!

    • subedii says:

      So am I on occasion. I’m also on occasion a Valve detractor.

      However, I’m not seeing why I’m supposed to be supporting Blizzard on this one. Especially considering that they’re making their own version of Defence of the Ancients for Starcraft 2, is not really involving any of the previous mod crew as far as I’m aware.

  18. Flappybat says:

    Does that mean Blizzard are going to license Warhammer?

  19. Farewell says:

    Let’s see…

    Team Fortress = based on a QuakeWorld mod
    CounterStrike = based on a Half-Life mod
    Portal = based on a school project
    Day of Defeat = based on a Half-Life mod
    Alien Swarm = based on a Unreal Tournament 2004 mod
    DOTA2 = based on a Warcraft III mod [based on a starcraft mod]

    In addition, most of Valve’s employees are former mod developers, including authors of AirQuake and Threewave CTF for Quake.

    Icefrog drama aside, this is basically what Valve’s been doing for over a decade now, and I personally think they deserve boatloads of medals for it.

    Did Blizzard ever reward their mod authors in any way?

    • Nick says:

      Woah, I never knew the Air Quake guy(s?) worked at Valve! That mod was awesome.

    • Unaco says:

      @Farewell

      I’m not really following the whole saga… never played any DotA’s or DotA-likes or DotA-derivatives… I don’t think I’ve even played a WarCraft or StarCraft game for that matter. But, what you just said is the way I immediately started thinking when I was reading the article. If VALVe just took mods, and made them into commercial products… that would suck. But they don’t… they take mods, and their developers, and make the developers into commercial developers, who can then make their mods into commercial products. This is a good thing, and they should be praised for it.

      Blizzard on the other hand, don’t seem to have that much of a history of embracing and rewarding the developers of mods for their products (or do they? I don’t know for sure. Have they had a “make something Crafty” competition yet? They made a big thing of the mod tools that came with StarCraft2, having a competition like that would seem like a good thing).

  20. Rick says:

    Valve makes fantastic games, Blizzard makes fantastic games. Why can’t we just get back to making said fantastic games?

  21. Chryso says:

    Kotick must be shitting a brick right now, letting money just walk out the door like that. Tonight shall be spilt the blood of many an intern.

  22. Garreett says:

    I’m going to add that Blizzard aren’t only squaring off with Valve, they’re also squaring off with the Korean goverment over an IP rights about the broadcasting of Starcraft (1) BW – Blizzard, wanting to kill off the SC1 professional scene (SC2 didn’t take off in Korea -> they want more profits from people switching), decided to give 100% broadcasting rights of both SC1 and SC2 to Gretech, who said they’d license the broadcasting of SC1 for a huge price; the television stations (MBCGame and OnGameNet) said they’d pay it. However, Gretech then said (effectively) that the offer was off.

    Now, they’ve filed to sue MBCGame and are going to sue OnGameNet too – these companies have given SC free advertising for years, and Blizzard are trying to sue them simply for their greed.

    http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=150858

  23. RadioactiveMan says:

    Valve has done absolutely the right thing here, and this interview makes Blizzard look really bad. Pardo’s feigned confusion makes him sound like an idiot, and the assertion that Blizzard is the more community friendly company here is disingenuous at best.

    To me, copyrighting DOTA is a necessary preemptive move by Valve. Blizzard-Activision has been a litigation-happy bully in recent times. As soon as Valve became interested in DOTA they must have realized that they were wandering into that Blizzard-Activision sphere of influence. I would say that copyrighting DOTA was a vital first step for Valve before beginning development.

    Imagine if Valve had not copyrighted DOTA. Upon releasing DOTA 2, Valve would be wide open to lawsuits from Blizzard-Activision. And I believe that Blizzard-Activision would absolutely pursue that option, if it were available to them.

    We can discuss whether or not it was appropriate for Valve to poach a mod team from the Warcraft community. However- once the decision was made to pursue DOTA 2 by Valve, the copyright seems like a no-brainer to me.

    • subedii says:

      Well the answer to that last question leans heavily on:

      Whether or not it was appropriate for Valve to poach a mod team from the Quake community.

      The answer to that is pretty much the answer to your question.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      I was speaking specifically about copyright, but you are right subedii- the issue here is the same as it was with TFC.

      Personally, I’d say yes, poaching mod talent is appropriate. Most mod teams (I assume) would like to be approached by a potential employer who wants to advance their ideas. If the game creators can’t or won’t offer this opportunity, then more power to Valve for stepping up. Valve’s recruiting brings new ideas and new talent into the games industry. Valve opens doors for people who really want a chance to go through those doors.

      Recruiting a mod team is fundamentally different, I would argue, than headhunting employees directly from another company. I find headhunting also to be acceptable, although its more of a grey area and I can see how i makes people angry.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      subedii: Although I’m unaware of the case, if they got the entire team (or consent from those who didn’t join) this is not at all similar (in my opinion; not a lawyer yaddah yaddah). IceFrog is not the creator of DOTA. Icefrog is -by far- not the only person who has worked on DOTA. He’s done work on maintaining and developing DOTA, sure.. but that doesn’t mean the rights to DOTA are his. Icefrog specifics aside, it’s pretty common vernacular even outside the ‘scene’. I mean, I know about DOTA. And what it refers to (which is not Valve’s game).

  24. Grimp says:

    The fight over the name “DOTA” (or DotA, etc) isn’t a copyright problem, it’s a trademark problem. The one who files their application first gets rights, except there’s an issue of who started using the name “in
    commerce” first. I dunno whether a free mod, as the original DoTA was, counts as a use in commerce.

  25. AS says:

    Most DotA fans, the people that will buy the game on day one, want the same game with better matchmaking support. We’ve kept the faith with Icefrog because he’s consistently continued to update the map in a crowded mod scene, and promised that things would always get better for the community as a whole.* Now that there’s a marketable game coming out and others realize there is money to be had (or lost, Blizzard) the battles begin.

    *Some people are angry they won’t be receiving monetary compensation, are angry at the trademarking, but I see it as a way to mark the path for those that want to play DotA. It’d be nice if they spun it off software foundation like into a collective trademark that anyone could use, but with Riot already trademarking other common names of DotA and Eul working for S2 all of the big names that modded are employed somewhere.

  26. Kadayi says:

    Personally I don’t know why they just didn’t come up with a new name for it in the first place. DOTA 2 seems kind of lame, given it’s effectively a sequel to a mod. I would be kind of like them releasing Portal as Narbacular Drop 2 (who dat?). Never played DOTA, LoL, or HoN, so I have no perspective on what the game play is all about (team multi-player survival seems to be the impression I have), but the 2 at the end seems like a fatal mistake in terms of attracting new players. .

    • Froibo says:

      It’s meant to attract the hard core DotA group and probably some old DotA players who never heard of or tried of LoL or HoN. There are a lot of people that don’t think any of the competition to DotA gives the genera any justice. Valves DOTA 2 is going to be an exact remake. The name DOTA implies this is the real deal.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’m with Kadayi here, I’m not sure why Valve even wants that name. Sure it brings with it a certain hardcore group (in theory, anyway, I’m not sure to what degree those folks really follow a specific title) but it’s downright alienating to the broader audience, who are usually the people Valve is out to charm. I would think the general reaction from a lot of potential customers would be “Huh? When did Valve put out DotA 1? Also, what’s a DotA?”

    • Kadayi says:

      @Froibo

      Given the reputation for histrionic nerd rage that relates to the existing genres community, I’m not too sure whether appealing to the hardcore is what Valve should be aiming for anyway.

  27. VFD says:

    Valve Fanboys can fuck off.

  28. Renzatic says:

    @Tei, quoting some random Blizzard employee

    “Keeping people from seeing your hate speech and obscene images on our private game service is not the same as relinquishing your constitutional freedoms in the hopes of increased personal/familial security,”

    I have this friend of a friend who knows a guy through his aunt who made a Starcraft II map recently. From all accounts, it was a well designed, superbly balanced map. But for some reason, Blizzard decided to nix it from their servers due to “too much hate speech for a single 25 meg file”.

    I didn’t get it. There was absolutely nothing in that map that was remotely hateful. But then I realized that if you’re in a certain part of the map, and you squint enough while bobbing your head, there is a part that sortakinda does look like a swastika superimposed on a burning cross…but only if you’re playing as the red team, and have a whole bunch of firebats. I guess I could see where Blizzard was coming from on that.

    Still, I think it was totally unfair that they banned him from Starcraft II singleplayer simply because that one crazy guy used that same map to write out his anti-Zionist manifesto with Zerglings. I mean you could do that on any stupid map.

  29. skalpadda says:

    I’m amazed at how excited people are because one person from Blizzard said he thought something seemed a bit strange to him and when asked what he’d do if Valve made a fuss over the naming of their SC2 mod (which they haven’t) said that his company would take the stance that they don’t actually own the name yet (which they don’t).

    Outrageous.

  30. Bob says:

    Who cares, the players of that genre are a bunch of douchebags. w/o a monthly fee it’ll crash and burn. Who wants to play w/ guys who openly tell you to never play the game again. Let them and there creme de la creme of the schmuck gaming world have it.

  31. DestinedCruz says:

    Who says you will even have to pay for the game?

    Alien Swarm is Valve and it’s free. League of Legends is a MoBA game and it’s free.

    ’nuff said.

    • Tupimus says:

      I see someone who picked an agility carry, fed all game and killstole whenever he could and was appalled by the hostility of the enemy team. God forbid, they were killing him! Why on earth would these people object to me taking their hard earned kills? I’m clearly special.

  32. Tetragrammaton says:

  33. Still VFD, Different email says:

    Mmhm, I don’t see why you’re all so disagreeable, just because my statement was rather abrupt.

  34. MountainShouter says:

    As stated before, DotA could mean anything.

    In my head, I keep thinking they’re going to name it “Defiance of the Angels” or something different like that.

  35. Tales says:

    God why do people keep thinking it’s Riot games that filed for Defense of the Ancients? It’s Defense of the Ancients LLC that filed for the trademark.

  36. ikinone says:

    I don’t see why Valve is bothering anyway. The name DOTA is rather awful as game names go. While the acronym is quite catchy, the full name is somewhat bland and antiquated.

    Obviously some people consider that using the same name will attract the same crowd. Something I hope that Valve is not aiming for anyway, considering that the DOTA crowd is the equivalent of an immature-venom-spitting-elitist-hydra.

    I would much prefer they come up with a new name and try to detach themselves somewhat from the WC3 DOTA version, as LoL has tried to do. The last thing we need is another HoN (while it was a great game, the hardcore DOTA crowd that composed its player base was a game-breaker for many people).

    A new name and a new spin for this game type could result in something truly wonderful.

  37. Melf_Himself says:

    Guys, if you want to release any kind of commercial product that has a name, you have to trademark the name. If it does, some troll will come along (Tim Langdell, anyone? Maybe Valve should call it DotA: Edge, just for a laugh) and make life difficult for them.

    If anybody is claiming that Valve is going to do any corporate douche-movery with the trademark, your objection is noted for the record. But, you just don’t know Valve.

  38. pWEN says:

    Cry some more, Blizzard.

  39. basil says:

    Please, Blizzard. Leave alone the guys who actually make good games.

  40. cassus says:

    I dislike the fact that they’re remaking DOTA 1 with new tech. That’s already being done with HoN. So what they’re getting is two clones of the same game, and people who aren’t already into DOTA will not be able to find any enjoyment in either of these two games. I played LoL, brilliant game because everyone started at skill level 0 or close to it. I was in the HoN beta from day 1, 90% of the guys in that beta started at skill level 9000 and creamed the remaining 10% who never played DOTA before.

    Valve is making a game for people who already have two games to play, DOTA and HoN. Great for those guys, I guess, but for the rest of us.. meh.. If you haven’t played DOTA before, look forward to an entirely new level of anger and frustration. You’ll most likely take a bite out of your keyboard and spit it at the screen in frustration after being annihilated 90 times within the first two hours of playing this. Might as well step into the ring with a pro boxer.

  41. Anonymous says:

    “Valve is usually so pro mod community. It’s such a community company that it just seems like a really strange move to us… I really don’t understand why [they would do it], to be honest.”

    Really??? VALVe was always a company found of modders, some of their biggest hits are in their bases mods (Counter-Strike, Portal). I don’t trust Valve for making a good RTS or what-ever-genre-that-is. But i do trust them that when they take something made as a mod, they turned it into gold. It will be really interesting to see DotA2 running from Source Engine.

  42. unigrrl says:

    It’s a pretty simple situation.

    I buy a LEGO playset, but instead of building the house they provide instructions for, and the set is designed to make, I instead build a castle.
    I show the Castle to my friends, but get bored and do other things with the blocks. Whilst my friends build their own castles, using instructions I gave them, whilst making changes and improvements of their own.
    They show their new and improved castles to their friends, and get bored of their own, and their friends go out and buy lego playsets to build their own castles, built around plans for the 2nd generation castle.
    ect.

    Finally, someone decides that lego isn’t the best system for making these castles, and makes a castle out of blocks of wood, adding curves and features that would have been impossible in lego bricks, and starts selling plans and parts for making this new, wooden castle.

    LEGO group gets upset at this, people are no longer buying out of date lego playsets just to build castles, and they had been planning on making their own castle playset to cash in on the idea.
    Would they have a legal leg to stand on if they wanted to stop these wooden castles kits form being made and sold?
    Not a chance.

    Or think of it like an essay, but written on a friends computer because you don’t have the software on your machine, which you print out and hand in. That work belongs not to the person who’s computer you borrowed, or the company that wrote the software which you used to make the essay, but rather it’s your own work, and belongs to you, the person who wrote it.
    If you wrote the first paragraph, then abandoned it to a friend, letting them use it as the starting point to their essay, and they added much to it, then it would belong to them. There would still be no ownership ties to the owner of the computer it’d been originally written on, or the software company who wrote the software used to make the essay.

  43. bushidogamer says:

    The question is, why kick up a fuss now, as opposed to when Valve first trademarked DOTA, or when they announced DOTA 2 earlier this month?

    Maybe because Blizzard has shit to do?

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