Game publishers and console builders like to ensure their backs by looking wide when they file new brands. When filing a new game title, for example, the use of the trademark on a game program is obviously mentioned. And to avoid possible problems, they usually lock this brand out for many other product categories more or less related to video games. However, the European Union has just shown that if a company wants to keep a brand, it has an interest in using it properly.
Sony has just lost the use of the Vita brand for several product categories in Europe. The information, discovered by the Kluwer Trademark Blog, has just been relayed by the site GamesIndustry. Contrary to what it would be logical to think, this situation is not linked to the abandonment by Sony of its portable console. And therefore the end of its commercial exploitation. The situation is much more complex than that.
To begin with, let us specify that just lost Sony. In Europe, the electronics giant no longer has the exclusive right to use the word Vita for “data vector programs“or to”audio and / or image file vectors. ” Before the release of its portable console, Sony registered the Vita trademark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). While this deposit primarily concerned a device used to play games, it was also linked to other product categories. Including the two listed above. And that was not to everyone’s liking.
Sony in a long fight for the Vita
Indeed, this decision of the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union results from a procedure initiated in 2011. At the time, the Vieta Audio brand requested that the Vita trademark be revoked in the categories mentioned above. The Spanish brand had justified its request by asserting that Vita was not used by Sony in these areas.
For its part, Sony has tried to fight this demand. The manufacturer initially tried to prove that its registration of the Vita trademark in these categories applied to the PlayStation Vita. According to Sony, its portable console could technically correspond to a “data vector program“or to a”vector of audio and / or image files.“
European justice however considered that these uses were secondary. For her, the PlayStation Vita was above all a game console. She therefore agreed with Vieta Audio. But as often when it comes to legal proceedings, things took a long time.
Caution is required for video game players
The final decision of the Tribunal was in fact given at the end of ten years of proceedings. With a final decision rendered on September 1st. Sony’s challenges were successively rejected by the Cancellation Division of EUIPO, the Boards of Appeal and finally by the General Court.
This means that the word Vita can now be registered by other companies. More particularly companies which wish to use it on products or services related to the categories listed above. Ultimately, this situation shows that video game companies cannot content themselves with filing trademarks in all directions. If they do not want to find themselves in a situation similar to that experienced by Sony PlayStation with the Vita, they must ensure that they are able to prove their use in the areas indicated during the initial filing.
As a reminder, the PlayStation Vita was released in December 2011 in Japan. Its production ended in March 2019. The latest news is that Sony still allows the purchase of PS Vita games from the PlayStation Store. However, the process is no longer as simple as it was in the past.
What do you think of this situation? Do companies have reason to think broad when they register their brands? Was Sony right to try to reserve the use of the word Vita in this way? Does the decision of the European Union matter in 2021? Give us your opinion in the comments below.