Doh-ta: Blizzard Lawyers Up Vs Valve

By Alec Meer on February 10th, 2012 at 11:20 am.

I'm too tired to make a photoshop of a headcrab vs a zergling, but please imagine it yourself

I was thinking the Blizzard/Valve cold war over DOTA had gone tellingly quiet of late. Here’s why – because it’s gone to the courts. Valve are, of course, gearing up to release Dota 2 as a standalone game of their own, but DOTA – or Defense of the Ancients as it was originally known – sprang to life as a Warcraft III mod. Valve were already facing a trademark-off with some of DOTA’s original team, but now, after some passive aggression in the media, Blizzard have stepped fully into the fray. They have lawyers. And they are contesting Valve’s registration of the Dota 2 trademark.

Whether they ultimately want it for themselves is less clear, though they’re certainly making a big song and dance about it being associated with their products. The obvious, logical and sensible reaction to this news is that Blizzard don’t own the name DOTA. Neither do Valve, at least not yet. The question is, who should? And it looks as though ‘no-one’ isn’t a valid answer any more. Blizzard’s claim, as part of an attempt to block Valve’s trademark for Dota 2, is that “the DOTA mark has become firmly associated in the mind of consumers with Blizzard”. I just made a noise like I’d been punched in the stomach by Hellboy. Er, no. My feeling is that neither company should be owning the name of something created by the gaming community for the gaming community. Alas, IP is about the most valuable commodity in the free world these days, so someone was always going to try and slip a saddle onto wild, free DOTA before too long.

The thrust of Blizzard’s counterclaim is, however, that they believe they have more of a right to the name than Valve do. “Valve has never used the mark DOTA in connection with any product or service that currently is available to the public. By attempting to register the mark DOTA, Valve seeks to appropriate the more than seven years of goodwill that Blizzard has developed in the mark DOTA and inits Warcraft III computer game and take for itself a name that has come to signify the product of years of time and energy expended by Blizzard and by fans of Warcraft III…

“If such registration is issued, it not only will damage Blizzard, but also the legions of Blizzard fans that have worked for years with Blizzard and its products, including by causing consumers to falsely believe that Valve’s products are affiliated, sponsored or endorsed by Blizzard and are related or connected to Warcraft III.”

Also, they note that the main Dota mods “cannot be played independently of Warcraft III” and that The title “Defense of the Ancients,” or “DotA,” is a reference to the Warcraft III characters known as the “Ancients,” since the primary objective of the game is to either defend or destroy (depending upon which team the player is on) the Ancient known as the Tree of Life.”

Ouch. And, really, it’s just quite sad to see the two most gigantic titans of PC gaming at war like this. It’s not even as clear-cut in terms of gut sympathies as Bethesda vs Mojang (much as that isn’t anything like clear-cut in terms of legalities). I suppose despite bristling at their trying to lay claim to something created by modders and with which they’ve never played any active developmental part, I lean ever-so-slightly but with massive, massive reservations towards Blizzard in this instance, in as much as this miserable drama wouldn’t even be happening if Valve had just called their DOTAlike something other than Dota.

They really didn’t need to: whatever name it was given people would have bought it, and it probably would have been highly successful, because they are Valve and people always buy Valve games in their droves. Was it naivety? Was it an uncharacteristically aggressive attempt to try and ensure their game could steal League of Legends’ thunder? Valve’s Erik Johnson claimed to me last year that making Dota 2 was a pure fan thing, but I remain unsure.

With the conflict now in court, I’d imagine we’re rather unlikely to hear further justification from Valve outside of how they feel the trademark was up for grabs and that they’ve got Dota sometime main-brain IceFrog working for them. But we shall see: they surely didn’t go into this lightly.

We won’t know the outcome of this case – and thus who ends up with the DOTA name, and indeed whether Dota 2 can be called Dota 2 – until July, though we may get to read Blizzard and Valve’s arguments and rebuttals over the coming months.

You can read Blizzard’s full statement to the USPTO here – it leans very heavily on the Warcraft angle, which I would imagine will also be the main point of contention for Valve’s response. As may be the distinction between ‘DOTA’, ‘Dota 2′ and ‘Defense of the Ancients.’ Hooray for confusing fragmentation!

Ideal resolution, to my mind: Valve go “screw it, we’ll just call our game something else” and Blizzard go “screw it, let the community stay free to make DOTA games.” Of course, Blizzard are working on their own StarCraft DoTA, so the question is whether that’ll end up being free, paid for, or an integral part of one of the two forthcoming StarCraft II expandalones. Messy, messy, messy business.

What, meanwhile, of Dota 2? Will we see it escape closed beta status anytime soon, or is this too much of an epic spanner +48 vs cold amphibians in the works?

Thanks, Diogo.

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195 Comments »

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  1. runbmp says:

    Personally I had never heard of DOTA until Valve announced Dota II.

    I can’t say I’m at all surprised from Activision and blizzard. Well I guess this gives me another reason why I can perhaps play something else other than D3 this year.

  2. Premium User Badge

    equatorian says:

    A dog lay in a manger, and by his growling and snapping prevented the oxen from eating the hay which had been placed for them. “What a selfish Dog!” said one of them to his companions; “He cannot eat the hay himself, and yet refuses to allow those to eat who can.”

    Aesop has been right all along, who’d have thunk!

  3. Eynonz says:

    Steve Feak should slap them both…………..

    • zergrush says:

      He tried to, didn’t he? But if anyone has the right to do that it would probably be Eul, who last I heard was working for Valve.

  4. Doug says:

    ID should’ve sued Valve for copyrighting Team Fortress.

  5. Squishpoke says:

    This is stupid. Just rename it to DOTO 2 and everything would be fine. Except for whiners who say “now it’s called Defense of the Oldies, that’s lame”

  6. DocSeuss says:

    Um… can someone explain the warhammer art please?

    What’s that? Blizzard was originally making a Warhammer game, but it wasn’t good enough, so they got their support pulled, and they’ve been copying Warhammer’s art style ever since? Right.

    What grounds do they have to sue again?

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      But the Protoss are nothing like the Eldar & neither are the Zerg anything like Tyranids.

      Wait a moment…

    • Shooop says:

      They’re fighting over the name. Even though DOTA was an unofficial mod to begin with.

      So Blizzard’s the clear villain here.

  7. Tei says:

    Team Fortres is a Quake 1 mod. But lot other games have Team Fortress.

  8. Shortwave says:

    Well done Blizzard!

    You’ve successfully given me one more reason to not support Diablo 3.
    Get a hold of yourself and/or get a lease on your lawyers.

  9. netizensmith says:

    Regardless of who wins the right to call their game DOTA, Americans will continue to call it DODA.

  10. InternetBatman says:

    Blizzard’s point is really weak. I definitely think Valve is wrong here, but I think Blizzard’s arguing it from the wrong angle. Hippogriffs are a WCIII unit that elves can ride on. If someone released a hippogriff-based flight simulator would they be able to contest that too? You can’t own something as derivative as “Ancients.”

  11. Chris D says:

    The irony is that Dota is a rubbish name anyway.

  12. Ultra-Humanite says:

    I love how Blizzard has the gall when they’ve made their living ripping off Warhammer for years.

  13. Joshua Northey says:

    Simple solution, Valve can make their game and call it DOTA, there is no trademark for anyone. If valve doesn’t want an untrademarked name they can pick something else.

    Problem solved.

  14. Gadriel says:

    This is a complex and awful situation. Both sides have cases, and neither side is clearly in the wrong. VALVe has as much claim to the DOTA name as anyone (given that they have some of the contributors and curators of the mod on staff and the fact that DOTA isn’t formally anyone’s property), but Blizzard would obviously like to protect their own right to publish something with “DOTA” on it. They do have a point with DOTA originally having a pretty firm tie to WC3. It was their game, tools and community that inspired it, allowed it to be created and helped it grow. That shouldn’t (and doesn’t… yet) give them exclusive rights to the name or the concept, but it would be pretty shitty frankly if they could never follow up on that with some official support (Blizzard Dota and beyond) because VALVe wins the TM.

    However, if either of them wins a trademark here it’s bad for the community. No one will ever be able to make a DOTA map for anything, for starters, and down the line the precedent will be there for publishers to snap up IP from modders with no consequence. Untested Terms of Use clauses aside, that sort of thing hasn’t really been extant in the industry, for good reason. It’s legally akin to Microsoft claiming the rights to any movies you make with Windows Movie Maker that end up being valuable YouTube virals. However, one should probably keep in mind that although Blizzard is disputing VALVe’s trademark filing, that does not mean they are seeking to claim it for themselves. They might have that intent, but their actions so far are only the steps needed to block VALVe from being awarded an exclusive trademark.

    I guess what I’d like most is for the ruling to be that “DOTA” can’t be trademarked by anyone, as no one in particular has any exclusive claim or history of use. It seems like that would be best for everyone. VALVe would still get to call their game Dota 2. Blizzard would still be able to foster their own DOTA community, be it through the efforts of SC2 modders or their own projects. Most importantly, though, the question of mod IP would still be in question and the mod community would not be stifled by the fear of having their work yoinked by whoever made the engine they’re using.

  15. Yar says:

    The EULA for the Battle Editor pretty clearly says that this belongs to Blizzard.

  16. Supervillain says:

    Keep in mind the mod was called “Defense of the Ancients”, and was typically shortened to “DotA”. Blizzards game is called “Blizzard DOTA” and Valves is named “Dota 2″. Because Valve isn’t all-capping or camel-casing, they aren’t using the words “Defense”, “Ancients” or even “of the”. Blizzard should have filed a TM long long ago on the word “Dota”. It seems their case here is based mostly on the words “Defense” and “Ancients”.

  17. ilikain says:

    This:
    ideal resolution, to my mind: Valve go “screw it, we’ll just call our game something else” and Blizzard go “screw it, let the community stay free to make DOTA games.”

    I will be disappointed with both if not.

  18. MythArcana says:

    * * * The Clash of the Corporates * * *

  19. Navagon says:

    So Blizzard are crying because Valve are paying the guy they never did, yet substantially benefited from? That’s like suing the company one of your escaped illegal immigrant slave workers now works for because it represents a loss of earnings.

  20. innociv says:

    Erm.

    First of all, I think in the EULA for the editor that it says Blizzard owns all content created with it.
    So yes, they own the title “Defense of the Ancients”.

    But do they own Dota?
    No. No one does. You’re not supposed to be able to trademark acronyms.(Yet it’s still done and upheld all the damn time.)

    This would be like Blizzard suing World of Warplanes for trademarking the acronym WoW. But, World of Warplane haven’t attempted to trademark WoW is the other difference.

    It’s Valve’s fault for trying to trademark “dota”.

  21. Joshua Northey says:

    On a side note who actually likes DOTA anyway? It is just a watered down/gimped RTS. I never found it scratched any gaming itch I had other than transient ones that last no more than 5 minutes. I guess I always thought of it as the analogue of a glorified flash game. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is just so little “there” there.

    Reminds me of when I used to be a multiplayer developer for Wesnoth and the more quick and braindead of a game mode I designed the more the non-serious “cattle” of our user base (which was 80% of them) loved it.

    Here is a regular map. How about we make that way smaller so the gameplay is a little broken but it is way quicker? “We love that!”

    How about we now restrict the units available and have unbalanced power-ups so that the whole game is just optimizing 10 or 15 decisions then running around clicking with no really skill tact or strategy of any kind? “Awesome!”

    It was horrifying. I can see how Cow Clicker was such a success…

    • zeroskill says:

      “On a side note who actually likes DOTA anyway?”

      Oh nobody really, only about 10 million active Dota players and one of the biggest competitive communities for any game that exists….

      Thats about the same number of people that play World of Warcraft around the globe. Even the invite based beta with a very limited number of players already now is in the top ten most played games on Steam.

      Buy hey, you opinion matters, because you clearly know what you are talking about and are totally not some random guy on the internet talking out of his ass.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      zeroskill I don’t think you read my post. Clearly I know it is popular. I was comparing it to game modes I designed which were extremely popular.

      I sort of meant “who likes it who has any taste at all”? Is that more clear? I don’t care if 10 million people play it, that means nothing, American Idol was one of the most popular TV shows of all time, doesn’t change the fact it was a worthless piece of garbage.

  22. Melf_Himself says:

    My understanding with trademarks is that it’s a “use it or lose it” mentality. How many years was DotA around for and we never heard peep from Blizzard about it. They only just now try and kick up a stink… I’m thinking that Valve will win this one.

  23. Froibo says:

    @Asuron Spot on.

    @Gozuu Dude.. Blizzard is releasing their own official mod called DOTA meanwhile taking Valve to court for using the name DOTA. How in any way is this not about Blizzard wanting the copyright?

    Face it, Blizzard was ay-okay with the community providing content for their games and there is nothing wrong with that. However, they can’t act surprised all of the sudden that another company expresses interest and swoops away their unclaimed content and free talent. This was nothing but bad business, the kind of shit you learn in a business 101 class. Now Blizzard realized they let a cash cow slip through their fingers which is the only thing driving their reaction.

    Blizzard would not be all spending of this effort and money in making this a legal case just to protect the integrity of the community… They are making a bet that it will payout.

  24. caddyB says:

    Games Workshop sues Blizzard over Zerg.

    Tyranids are cooler!

  25. smiley65 says:

    Hey Alec Meer,

    Learn Engrish before you write another article. FFS man, this shit is terrible.

  26. SlyTrojan says:

    What does this mean as far as release date? I am assuming that if the court will decide this summer, the Q1 2012 release is out the window.

  27. markcocjin says:

    Is RPS saying that a guy (Eul) who invented the game and another guy (IceFrog) who made the game the best and most famous it could ever be can’t make another game called Dota 2? You’re in favor of a company who never used Dota as a word in their Warcraft universe? We’re just talking about the word Dota here. Valve did well by turning Dota into its own name instead of Defense of the Ancients in order to protect their work and the people who pioneered it.

    I think Valve pulled a clever one on Blizzard where they have no way of solidly claiming anything about Dota. When you claim the rights to the name, you’re supposed to be able to show actual work already done pertaining to the name’s use. They had no documentation claiming all rights to mods prior to the making of Dota Allstars. They do now but it’s likely as a prevention of similar incidents to Dota 2.

    The guy who started Defence of the Ancients, Eul works at Valve. IceFrog is part of Valve. Guinsoo abandoned Dota for LoL. That Pendragon guy did not work on the game of Dota and has also actively attempted to sabotage the game by shutting down the website Dota Allstars players heavily relied on for community. He did this while being an employee of Riot which greatly benefits their game League of Legends.

    Forget the use of Warcraft III assets. You gave use of that away when you made mod tools for your game. Any similarity with Dota 2 and Dota 1 had more to do with the the mod than with Warcraft III. Blizzard, while originally making the Drow Ranger’s archetype, cannot hold claims to it since it’s both too common a design to have only been thought up by them. Also, they’d have to sue Riot and S2 as well for the same thing. Nobody’s suing Blizzard for ripping off stuff from Lord of the Rings or Warhammer’s franchise which they were originally contracted for.

    The way I see it, Valve’s Dota 2 is a lot like any modder taking his work and its name from his Blizzard mod and turning it into a full game. Natural Selection did the same thing with their sequel and yet Valve has no interest in claiming for anything even after the team decided not to use the Source Engine after having success with Valve’s Goldsrc engine.

    If Blizzard had anything against Valve that could stick, they would have sued by now. Like with Bethesda’s Scrolls.

  28. Interrobangin says:

    So id should have thrown a similar fit when Valve made Team Fortress Classic?

  29. Sid says:

    Valve got out of the blue a mod called Counterstrike which made them what they are today..

    and Bliz, had DoTA which made Warcraft 3 sell WAY MORE than it was supposed to..

    What do we get from these 2 companies?

    Total disrespect for the gaming community..
    Both fighting over IP they actually DON’T own..

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Warcraft IIIs sales did just fine without DOTA. It certainly didn’t hurt, but very few players bought WCIII specifically for DOTA. I read about that here maybe 5 years ago? Somewhere?

  30. PearlChoco says:

    This is one of the easier lawsuits.

    They should just ask the team that developed the original DOTA and invented the DOTA name who they allow to trademark their own invention.

  31. Mokes says:

    Tough sh*t, Blizzard. Tough sh*t. You sat there for 9 years and never lifted a finger to help Icefrog. You had one of the hottest commodities right in your lap and you never did ANYTHING for it. Boohoo, Blizzard, BOOHOO.

  32. aneper says:

    Look what I found on wiki: “DotA Allstars became an important tournament scenario, starting with its prominence at the debut of Blizzard’s BlizzCon convention in 2005.” so no bullshitting about Blizzard not giving a fuck. Uff, that was quite vulgar, wasn’t it.

    Anyway, what several of you need to realize is that Blizzard is just trying to secure some ground for Blizzard DOTA IMO. They don’t want Valve to change the name of the game, they are not acting like everything what community made belongs to them. I consider this quite an offensive act by Valve, to try to register the trademark and stop Blizzard’s own DotA game no matter if it’s name or abbreviation or whatevah . Blizzard didn’t do this when they could and now that turned against them.

    Wise wiki also stated, that DotA was originally created by Eul (works at Valve now) for RoC, Guinsoo (works at Riot Games) ported it to TFT, added recipes and roshan, Pendragon (LoL too) added website, which was eventually closed and finally IceFrog (moved to Valve not-so-long ago) kept shaping it until forever. Just an attempt to clarification.

    One thing I am clearly sure about is that no matter who wins this fight, modders will lose. IMO Ideal solution would be some kind of prohibition of trademarking dat name LOL.

    I’m on the Blizzard’s side but psshh, don’t tell anybody, I hope they won’t act supid. By the way, congrats to anyone who read commentaries all the way down here!

  33. src08c says:

    Here is my take on this matter. To qualify myself, I’ve been playing dota for 4 to 5 years, I am fairly skilled, and want to see what is best for the DOTA community.
    The bottom line, Blizzard has done nothing to serve the AVERAGE JOE BLOW Dota community in the context of WC3. Us normal Dota players have two dismal options if they want to play Dota. One option is to download a gaming client and play DOTA without logging into Battlenet. This results in numerous problems with map and WC3 version compatibilities. It’s a nightmare. The second option, equally nightmarish, to play on DotaCash. Blizzard has ALLOWED battlenet to be controlled by gaming bots, namely DotaCash. This bot is oppressive, full of imbalances, and extremely prejudiced towards new players. How hard would it be to put a button on Battlenet that says “Play Dota”, because in all honesty the only thing I use WC3 for now a days is to “Play Dota”. That would cut out the bot crap and restore my faith in Blizzard. Blizzard is trumping up WC3 now all of a sudden to defend their claim to dota? How about they actually try giving something back to the WC3 community first? Being a lifelong WC3 fan, I felt neglected to see them releasing a new Dota for SC2 and having the gall to put it on the WC3 battlenet screen. Do they expect Dota fans to buy their flop SC2 just so they can continue playing Dota? I think that’s exactly what they expect. Back of Blizzard, we are tired of your cock teasing antics. I loved WC3 back in the day and I love Dota now. Put out a decent game at a scheduled time and then maybe I’ll think you have what it takes to even manage Dota 2.

    • hossimo says:

      The issue is not the game type. Valve is welcome to release a MOBA game and take market share from Blizzard, they just can’t use the name DotA.

      Riot has already successfully done this with LoL and Valve is welcome to use some other Three/Four Letter Acronym.

      Blizzards dedication to the community has nothing to do with this conversation; If Valve makes a better game then people can speak with their wallets.

      I’m sure in the future we will see a Warcraft IV, but until them there are many other market players. choose one of them.

  34. hossimo says:

    If you take the time to read the Notice of Opposition then its made some what clear:

    Dota was/is a Warcraft III mod
    In order to play war III or use the mode you have to agree to the EULA, you know the thing you just accept without reading.

    It states:
    “All title, ownership rights, and intellectual property rights in
    and to the Program and any and all copies thereof (including, but not limited to, any
    titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialog, catch
    phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, animations, sounds, musical compositions, audiovisual effects, methods of operation, moral rights, any related documentation, and
    `applets’ incorporated into the Program) are owned by Blizzard or its licensors.”

    Meaning any work derived from the use of the World editor belongs to Blizzard.

    They also state their defence of the term DotA and it’s licensing.

    This seams like a somewhat clear case. The term DotA though fan created, was created and playable only when using Warcraft III. The only way to play or create content for Warcraft III is to accept the EULA. It doesn’t matter where the creators work now they never did own the name.

  35. CREDIET says:

    Valve has this hands down
    Look at Blizzard’s Warcraft III license.txt –
    4. Program Transfer. You may permanently transfer all of your rights under this License, provided the recipient agrees to the terms of this License and you agree to remove the Program from you home, business, or portable computer.

    5. Termination. This License is effective until terminated. You may terminate the License at any time by destroying the Program and any New Material. The Licensor may, at its discretion, terminate this License in the event that you fail to comply with the terms and conditions contained herein. In such event, you must immediately destroy the Program and any New Material.

    Just delete the “Existing Dota” at Warcraft III, LOL

  36. dddddd says:

    OK people, time for the facts.

    1) Dota was an AoS based map that is created by Eul on RoC. But Guinsoo stole it from an unprotected copy when TFT came and did an unofficial version on TFT. Everyone was playing TFT then it got mainstream. He developed for a year but the mod was utter shit back then. No balance, buggy as hell and he left with an utter mess, the mod got picked up by Icefrog and it has came to near perfectly balanced, extremely popular game that it is today. Considering Eul and Icefrog are working on Valve how the hell Guinsoo has anything to say about it.

    2) Pendragon *one of the 2 major DotA people along with Guinsoo went to make LoL* filed a trademark application regarding “Defense of the Ancients”, from the company DotA Allstars LLC. Then Riot games *Pendragon* sold Dota Allstars LLC to Blizzard *what a shocker*. So Blizzard owns Defence of the Ancients copyright. Oh my dear community lover Blizzard. (!) Then when Valve started developing Dota 2. They trademarked it as Dota 2. Not DotA *the current WC3 mod name* not Defense of the Ancients, just Dota to avoid any copyright claims from Blizzard. Thus Blizzard owns Defense of the Ancients have rights on DotA *EULA* and they want “Dota” to be public domain because they care about the “community”, yes… Valve got the trademark in 2010 afaik. Why they didn’t do anything back then. Blizzard is only trying to cockblock Valve and trying eliminate the competition.

    If anyone has rights on DotA/Defense of the Ancients it’s Icefrog. But they even didn’t pushed anything and went with “Dota” which has no inference with DotA / Defense of the Ancients copyrights.

    Moral of the story; Riot, Guinsoo, Pendragon, Blizzard are THE biggest hypocrites known to men. Blizzard might have a say on DotA but they haven’t got any right on Dota, Dota 2 has nothing related to Blizzard, etc. They, those community lovers, are the ones who registered/bought Defense of the Ancients name in the first place.

    Also, Valve got this np.

  37. GeekAndProud says:

    The way I see it is this: Blizzard had plenty of time to snap up the original DoTA and call it their own but they didn’t, they just seem butthurt that someone else got it before they did.

    No one from ID or the original Team Fortress team complained when Valve took TF and made a modern version of it in Team Fortress Classic.