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I wrote a book which I released in April, 2015. I've just discovered there's a pen/paper fantasy game similar to dungeons and dragons with the same name that was a kickstarter back in May 2014, which was last updated April 2015 (there was about a year gap between updates.)

My question is, although I didn't know it existed as my internet searches yielded nothing, I can find no listing of trademark or copyright or anything of the like, could I potentially be infringing copyright?

They are similar is two regards other than the same name, that is the logo is slightly similar, and both are in the fantasy genre, although the settings, worlds, character, etc... are all wildly different.

Not sure if I'm allowed to post links but can do so for someone to check if needed.

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Your issue is trademark, not copyright.

If these other guys use their mark (product name) in commerce but did not register it, they have an unregistered trademark which you could be infringing. Between two users of the same trademark, the first to use in commerce wins. (There is a territorial component but with the Internet, meh.)

If the trademark is registered that gives them a presumption of validity.

Trademark infringement is concerned with consumer confusion. If someone uses someone else's trademark in a way that confuses consumers as to the origin of the goods, that's a problem. What this means is that if I make tires with the name Sportie and someone else makes soap also with that name Sportie there is not a high likelihood of confusion. Likewise a hotel in Washington called Runner's Cove probably doesn't infringe a shoe store in Florida with the same name.

Fantasy games and fantasy books sold over the Internet? Sounds like a potential problem that you might want to clear up before the second book.

  • Hi, thanks for the response, which is very helpful. So, if I change the name, should it be a substantial change? For example, if my story and this other product were named Something of the Something, and I changed mine to Something IN the Something, would that be sufficient, or should I look to completely change the name. I ask only because the title plays into the plot of the story, but would obviously make a change to prevent confusion and potential problems. – Chris Oct 2 '15 at 3:25
  • Can I call my product Kalvin Clien? The court really does look at likelihood of confusion. It's impossible to say what you can get away with. Have you considered talking to the other guys? – jqning Oct 2 '15 at 3:29
  • @Chris In fringe cases where you almost violate a trademark by having a very similar name, it depends on your lawyer, their lawyer and the mood of the judge. As said by jqning, the litmus test is: "is it possible that a consumer believes at first glance that your products are related even though they are not?". When someone is aware of the game and sees your book in a bookstore, could they be mistaken that it is an official novelization of the game and buy it because of that? – Philipp Oct 2 '15 at 8:04

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