Who Trolls The Trademark Trolls? Trademarkville Does!

Dark visions of the world to come, where everyday words are owned and rented out by whichever corporations have been quick enough and greedy enough to trademark them. We won’t stand for that sort of thing here on Big Stone, Pulped Tree, Short Range Firearm. You won’t catch us altering our vocabulary in order to dodge the dread eye of trademark lawyers.

That’s why we heartily endorse free, satirical browser game Trademarkville, a cheerfully dystopian commentary on last month’s Sugary Treat Violent Compression Long Story miseries.

It’s a simple but clever multiplayer game which evokes family boardgames such as Pictionary, only you’ll never communicate directly with any one else. You have two options at any point: guess a thing or rename a thing. What’s going on, you see, is that everyday words are being trademarked at a rate of knots, so the world is in need of new, safe descriptions for bats and witches and memories and gnomes and foetuses and arrows and amazons. If you choose to rename, then you have to come up with a clever but guessable description of it, but made infinitely more complex by the fact that more words are being banned all the time.

For instance, trying to describe ‘amazon’ (as denoted by a picture of a woman), I found that warrior, woman, female, jungle, online, book shop, fighter, river and a whole bunch more were already out of bounds. That’s because the words in question are deemed trademarked as soon as any other player correctly guesses a clue containing them. That means they can no longer be used by anyone writing subsequent clues. So the pool of words drains and drains and drains, and greater ingenuity and abstraction (and frankly, frustration) is required as the game wears on.

Trademarkville’s quickly moved onto its second ‘season’, with a fresh set of endangered words, in order to become playable again, and it’s also added a few new bells and whistles for those seeking higher placement on the high score board. There are points to be won for correct guesses and correctly-guessed renames, you see. But really it’s about challenging your own vocabulary, and experiencing the sinister strangeness of a world in which every day words are someone else’s property.

The game could do with making a bit more of what people have unsuccessfully tried to guess for your clues, as that’s a big source of organic humour, but you can at least see a list of recent successful guesses from across the world here. Already there’s a strong sense of how experimental renamers are having to get.

Clever and silly, and free. Go play.

(I do like that the cheeky name also nods to the cloning culture of the sorts of games which most recently brought about trademark sabre-rattling.)


  1. zain3000 says:

    Bah! What is with having to “log in” with either Facebook or Twitter? Some of us prefer to troll in relative anonymity.

    • ElDopa says:

      At thirst I thought it was a joke, but they really want you to log in with facebook or twitter…

    • ghling says:

      I ask myself the same question. Well, seems like the devs don’t want us to play their game…

      • Universal Quitter says:

        That’s exactly what I think when that happens.

        Well, no ad revenue for you guys.

    • bglamb says:

      Yeah. I tried the Facebook log in (don’t use Twitter), at which point it immediately requested permission to post on my behalf. Post on my behalf?!?! You must be joking! Sorry game, no dice.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Well, while they say they won’t post on your behalf despite getting the permissions needed to, you could always just set any posts it makes to only be viewable by yourself, making it risk-free.

        • Universal Quitter says:

          Or they could just not force facebook and twitter integration into games.

          That’d be nice. Looking at YOU Tropico 5.

    • Jekhar says:

      I wonder why that hasn’t been mentioned in the article. Are things like that acceptable nowadays?

    • Darth_Pingu says:

      From Facebook allow access window: “Your account will be used exclusively to keep track of your score. We won’t post on your timeline not collect any information.”

      • Deano2099 says:

        From the same window: “This app may post on your behalf, including status updates, photos and more.” – they’re asking for permission to do it while at the same time saying they won’t do it.

    • Berzee says:

      I also only got as far as the facebook/twitter login page. Harumph.

    • Devan says:

      Yeah, I’m not logging in with anything. Why add that barrier to entry for something as unimportant as scorekeeping?

    • jrodman says:

      Why would I want them to keep track of my high score? Why would I want to go create a facebook or twitter account just for that?

    • vivlo says:

      ow :( what a letdown :(

  2. LionsPhil says:

    This would be a stronger message if it were not also a humongous straw-man argument, because trademark law does not work like that. Microsoft have held a trademark on Windows® for decades, and yet you don’t have to say that light is let into your house through Flat Glass Panes.

    (Which is not commentary on how fun it may or may not be as a game.)

    • rikvanoostende says:

      The Internet has no place for nuances and long explanations. Hyperboles and satire FTW!
      Fun game though :)

    • Nogo says:

      Isn’t that a bit like saying sci-fi can never have a strong message?

    • ghling says:

      When your argument here that trademarks do no harm is that Microsoft didn’t use it to deny the use of “windows”, then good luck naming your game “Saga”.
      Oh, wait: link to en.wikipedia.org.

      • Harlander says:

        Well, that example

        a) isn’t MS trying to stop people from using the word “windows” to describe non-operating-system-brand-name things
        b) isn’t really a monumentally egregious example of trademark tomfoolery given the precise circumstances of the case

      • LionsPhil says:

        I’m not sure how Microsoft defending against attempts to cause confusion against their trademark with the actual area their trademark covers (operating system software)—and failing—is anything but undermining claims that trademark law is some evil bogeyman that takes away words.

        Lindows was named to be as confusingly close to Windows as possible, very intentionally. Its interface was likewise designed to be a clone of it. It was basically a crappy Linux distro trying to pass itself off as Windows and IP law honestly failed in not slamming it hard.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Yeah, this isn’t really as clever as it seems. They should rather make a game about how hard and expensive it is to get a case through the US court systems. That’d hit a lot closer to the core issue.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Are we allowed to have one thread without gratuitous use of “straw-man?” Please?

  3. Ny24 says:

    This is just awesome! I’m gonna trademark “trademarkville”. They should add the function to sue them.

    • The Random One says:

      They’d have a future just renaming it to Joss Wheddon Gibberish Simulator.

  4. Ben says:

    This is fun when renaming words, as it requires ingenuity (SPOILER: I was forced to rename “gargoyle” as ‘godly precipitation funnel’). Unfortunately, pretty much every rename I tried to guess was a cheat, either through misspelling or stringing words together (see the screen grabs above), which completely breaks the game.

    • vivlo says:

      really, is stringing words together a cheat ?? from the most recent guesses, and the words that get thrown at me to guess, they don’t seem to be reported a lot… i have only been doing that, following that example :/ a good countermeasure to that would be either to clearly state as introduction that stringing words together is a cheat and to ask to systematically report them, or to not allow blank spaces at all…

  5. Cross says:

    Oh hello, Molleindustria! I’ve been missing your weird satire games.

  6. Fenix says:

    This is really cool. Played a little, “Legolasman” for elf got a chuckle out of me. I then renamed gnome as “Hirsute Gardenman” and called it a day!

    • The Random One says:

      My renaming of elf as “tolkiensanta littleman” was discovered quite quickly.

  7. psepho says:

    This is great! It actually has a more positive application to trade mark law as well.

    In most countries you can’t register a word as a trade mark for particular goods/services if it describes those goods/services. So you could not register ‘apple’ for fruit or, indeed, ‘candy’ for confectionary.

    However, marketers always want to try and use descriptive words for new products so that consumers can understand what they are. The battle between marketing and legal on this point is ancient and will terminate only when a giant wolf eats the sun.

    So from a trade mark lawyer perspective this game is actually a rather neat exercise in communicating the qualities of an item without simply describing it directly. Something that lots of marketers and lawyers could do with practising.

  8. Bahumat says:

    I got a good laugh out of Church -> “Apostle Hostel”.