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I am thinking about developing a game. In the dystopian world the game takes place in, companies are named after Greek Mythological Gods.

One of them being Nike (the God).

I guess that could be seen as trademark infringement, but in this case it actually has nothing to do with the company Nike.

Would I be taking a risk?

  • The reason you might hire a lawyer is that he will give you a professional estimate of what the risk is – that's what "giving legal advice" boils down to, and surely you aren't asking for that. Your comment about "nothing to do with the sports company" suggests that you know the relevant fact that we could answer, without engaging in the practice of law. – user6726 May 19 '18 at 20:10
  • @user6726 - Thank you, I was hoping someone would know of some legal precedents as I am sure this same uncertainty arises quite often due to the various amount of brands / trademarks that borrow from culture / language. Thanks for the feedback though. – alexisdevarennes May 20 '18 at 2:10
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I wouldn't be surprised if Nike sent a cease-and-desist letter in response to its name appearing in a video game, but that doesn't actually mean anyone's done anything wrong; it just means that Nike is policing its trademark to avoid losing trademark protection.

There's an eight-part test for trademark infringement, but I don't think you really need to get into it because -- as MSalters said -- a video game is in a totally different market.

But I disagree with MSalters on the second point, because using the name in an expressive medium such as a video game is probably protected under the First Amendment -- even if I made a game that was about the actual shoe company, featuring members of the C-Suite and prominently displaying the Swoosh and other logos all over the place.

The basic rule for First Amendment protection in this area comes from Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 999 (2d Cir. 1989) and its progeny, which hold that expressive uses of commercial identifiers such as trademarks are generally permissible unless the use "has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever," or it "explicitly misleads as to the source or the content of the work."

There are quite a few cases cases touching on this that could be worth a read:

  • Thank you so much for taking your time to expand on the previously given answers. Very much appreciated ! – alexisdevarennes May 20 '18 at 23:41
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Trademarks apply to the specific field of business. There are plenty of identically-named companies in different markets. As such, Nike (the sportswear company) can only enforce its trademark in sportswear and similar markets. If you'd create a Nike company that makes railroad equipment, that's sufficiently distinct. And that's talking about real companies.

Of course, if your in-game Nike company is in the sportswear market, then there are other options for real Nike besides trademark infringements. They may claim that the inclusion is suggesting their approval of the game, and a number of similar claims.

  • Makes sense, my thoughts too. I guess I'll just make sure it's not clothing/sports related at all and remove other such similarities. Thank you for the answer, marked as correct as it sums up what the law says. Still hoping someone might know of precedents. – alexisdevarennes May 20 '18 at 2:12

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