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This Is Happening: Scribblenauts Sued Over Cat Memes

As of now, god, the devil, and dinosaurs are still considering their legal options.

Here at RPS, we make a policy of loving Scribblenauts in spite of its flaws, and sometimes we use it to construct elaborate, oddly poignant superhero parodies. And yet, even before DC license announcements entered the picture, I was always impressed by how carefully the series balanced on the glossy lip of pop culture without falling into a bottomless well of legal troubles. No, it’s never applied names (or any proper nouns at all) to its homages, but some of the candy coated likenesses are uncanny. So naturally, it’s finally happened: a lawsuit. But it didn’t come from Rick Astley, Barack Obama, or even a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man. Oh no. So then, who are 5th Cell’s mighty legal foes? Why, none other than the folks who created Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Internet.

Kotaku dug up the lawsuit, which alleges the following instances of trademark infringement against Keyboard Cat rights holder Charles Schmidt and Nyan Cat owner Christopher Orlando Torres:

“Plaintiffs accuse Warner Bros and 5th Cell of including, without any licenses or authorizations, the Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat characters in their original Scribblenauts videogame released in 2009, the 2010 Super Scribblenauts, 2011 Scribblenauts Remix, and the 2012 Scribblenauts Unlimited.”

“Defendants are accused of shamelessly using identifying ‘Nyan Cat’ and ‘Keyboard Cat’ by name to promote and market their games. Plaintiffs claim that Warner Bros and 5th Cell’s trademark infringement was willful and intentional and are requesting an award of treble damages and requesting the case be deemed exception under 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), thereby entitling Plaintiffs to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees.”

Me-ouch, etc.

The lawsuit comes at an odd time, given that Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat have been easter eggs in various Scribblenauts games for years. But who knows? Maybe the not-quite-omniscient Internet cat deities just weren’t aware until now. I suppose that’s possible, though not exactly probable. UPDATE: Eurogamer obtained a statement from Torres, wherein he alleged that he and Schmidt have been “disrespected and snubbed each time as nothing more than nuisances for asking for fair compensation for our intellectual property.” Thus, a lawsuit was the last remaining option.

WB and 5th Cell have yet to make a statement on the matter, in spite of the very serious threat of an outer space rainbow pop-tart feline pressing down upon them. I have, however, sent emails to both, so we’ll see. But goodness, unknowable cosmic forces writing the script for the gaming industry’s existence, this is the best you could come up with for this spring’s titanic legal rumble? Previously, you brought us EA vs Activision and EA vs Zynga, but now you’re cashing in on Internet memes? For shame. For shame.

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Nathan Grayson

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