WotC vs. Cryptozoic

By Polar_Bear
In Card Games
May 15th, 2014

Wizards of the Coast has filed suit against Cryptozoic Entertainment over IP infringement.



From the WotC website:

Today Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS), filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington against Cryptozoic Entertainment, LLC and its alter ego, Hex Entertainment, LLC (collectively, “Cryptozoic”), for willful infringement of intellectual property rights.

Cryptozoic develops and publishes the digital trading card game, Hex: Shards of Fate, a clone of the world famous tabletop collectable trading card game, Magic: The Gathering®, and its digital expressions, Magic Online® and the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers® franchise.

“Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast vigorously protect our intellectual property. This infringement suit against Cryptozoic demonstrates that while we appreciate a robust and thriving trading card game industry, we will not permit the misappropriation of our intellectual property” said Barbara Finigan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Hasbro. “We attempted to resolve this issue, but Cryptozoic was unwilling to settle the matter.”

The suit includes claims for copyright, patent and trade dress infringement.

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  • odinsgrandson

    Does anyone here know whether they have a legitimate case, or if this is a strategic lawsuit?

    • Grindar

      This is a pretty good breakdown.

      There’s enough differences in the game, especially with the PVE game, that I don’t think it’s a winning suit. But will mire up Hex for a year or 2.

      • odinsgrandson

        That’s really bad news in the CCG market, where gamers run in fear when they hear any kind of hint that the game might die.

        • Grindar

          They had a $2 million dollar kickstarter, so no one will be running yet.

          • odinsgrandson

            I remember in the ’90s when there were tons of CCGs that got big for a couple months, then suddenly everyone would drop them (all at once) and I couldn’t find anyone to play against.

  • thetang22

    “Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast vigorously protect our intellectual property.”

    I find this ironic, considering all the mess that HeroQuest has gone through in the last 4-5 months….yet last I heard, they did the exact opposite of “vigorously protect their intellectual property” in that case (up to this point, anyway). They still may…but considering how much attention the HeroQuest BS generated…IF Hasbro responds, it’s a little too late to call it “vigorous”.

    • Zac

      I don’t know how many times it has to be repeated but Hasbro has lost the trademarks to Heroquest in several (most?) markets. The trademark in question initially is held by another company. Hasbro have no trademarks to protect in that instance unless someone does something spectacularly stupid like literally copy the text and/or graphics from the original Heroquest they have nothing to sue over.

      • thetang22

        There has been plenty of material that looks like Gamezone is trying to copy as much as they can get away with. Regardless of the current status of the trademark, there has to be some sort of protection against trying to blatantly rip off someone else’s work….which IS what Gamezone is trying to do.

        • elril

          You’re trying to apply logic to law. Once a trademark has lapsed, it is open source material. Blatant or not, it can be copied. I don’t know what the status of the Heroquest IP is, but if Hasbro no long holds the trademarks, it is fair game.

          • odinsgrandson

            Trademarks only apply to names. The name “Heroquest” was a registered trademark (which costs money to upkeep) and Hasbro let it lapse because they weren’t using it. The name is fair game.

            The content of the game is copyrighted material- which does not need to be registered, and pretty much never runs out (thanks to Disney). Buying the trademark does not give you any right to material previously associated with the trademark.

            Gamezone is creating a 20th anniversary edition of Heroquest- but 20th anniversary of what? Gamezone’s game didn’t exist 20 years ago, so it must be the one that they don’t have the rights to copy.

            There is an implication (even a hope from the fans) that they’ll be infringing on the copyrighted materials. I suppose Hasbro might simply be waiting to see if the game mechanics are something they can sue over.

          • Cergorach

            The problem is that you can’t copyright game rules, you can only copyright a particular expression of game rules (the exact wording of your rulebook). It’s entirely possible to ‘copy’ any game, thinking this is ‘wrong’ is just shortsighted. Advancement in such things is not done in leaps and bounds, but by repeated iteration of the same core rules/mechanics. Just look at the RPG market, how many have ability stats? Or Roll x or higher? Those are mechanics.

            WotC has a patent on certain mechanics in CCGs, to what extent that patent goes is unclear, but historically WotC claimed more rights then they actually had (and got hit in the nose for that by other firms).

            I’m curious whether or not WotC is using this as a test case to go after Blizzard and Hearthstone…

  • cannondaddy

    The Hex website is too functional to be considered a Magic clone.

  • jedijon

    Given the almost complete lack of any extant WotC content, I’d be surprised that they win this particular lawsuit and honestly, everything they do is becoming fair game. Heck, you could probably copy D&D without even resorting to the OGL at this point given their reluctance to actually print any new materials. There’s a ghost in the shell here…