IKEA asks to change the horror game so people stop comparing themselves to IKEA

IKEA asks to change the horror game so people stop comparing themselves to IKEA
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Swedish meat sign in a non-Ikea store.

Screenshot: Ziggy

in an unexpected move, furniture giant Ikea has sent a solo independent developer a cease and desist letter reviewed by Kotakudemanding that you make changes to your unpublished survival horror game set in an Ikea-type furniture store. attorneys representing Ikea claims that the game infringes the trademark because some media outlets have drawn comparisons between their official brand and the game. the The Swedish firm gave developer Jacob Shaw just ten days to “change the game and remove all traces associated with the famous Ikea stores.”

The store is closed it’s an unreleased co-op survival game, that’s just in the last week from a successful Kickstarter campaign That has raised just over $49,000. Created by a lone developer, going by the studio name Ziggy, the game describes itself as “set in an infinite furniture store.”

“You will have to craft weapons and build fortifications to survive the night,” the blurb continues. “Explore SCP’s underground labs and build towers into the sky to find a way out.” You know, like in a real Ikea? Crucially, nowhere in the game’s promotional materials, on its Steam, during its Kickstarter campaign, nowhere has the word “Ikea” been uttered.

However, despite this, and despite the fact that the game is not for sale anywhere, Ikea’s New York lawyers, Fross Zelnick, wrote to Shaw demanding that he completely change anything in the game that can remind people of your brand.

“Our client has found out that you are developing a video game”,The store is closed‘”, explains the legal brief, “which uses, without the authorization of our client, signs associated with the famous IKEA stores”.

It then goes on to list the infringing aspects of Shaw’s game.

“Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical stiped shirts identical to those worn by IKEA personnel, a gray path on the floor, furniture that looks like IKEA furniture, and product signage that looks like IKEA signage. All the foregoing immediately suggest that the game takes place in an IKEA store.”

Shaw gave me access to an early alpha build of the game, during which the “blue box-like building” and “blue and yellow sign” appear, in their totality, on the menu screen. After that, you don’t see them. There’s currently no branding at all in-game. The store is called “STYR.” Clearly a joke spelling of “STORE,” it is, by coincidence, a Swedish word, meaning “controls.” You know what’s not a Swedish word? “Ikea.” It’s the initials of its founder, a farm he grew up on, and a nearby village. Notably, stores like Tiffany have a trademark over the color that they use in their packaging, so in some ways Ikea isn’t coming completely out of left field here.

Then there are the claims that it has “furniture that looks like Ikea furniture.” But Shaw disputes that he designed any furniture with Ikea in mind. “I bought generic furniture asset packs to make this game,” Shaw said, meaning that this is furniture that can be featured in any game for a price.I don’t know what that means.” The game does, however, have a grey path on the floor. It is also common for stores to have signage that tells the customer where to go.

Ikea’s argument hinges that the game infringes on their brand because press sites have made the association, rather than the game itself aligning naming Ikea.

One headline says, ‘Someone Has Made a Survival Horror Game Set In IKEA.’ Another headline says, ‘The Backrooms meets Sons of the Forest in new IKEA horror game.’

Those were the two headlines we could find, but it’s possible there are more. The letter also includes the subheadings of these stories as part of the evidence, going on to then state:

“Further, numerous comments by readers of these stories make an association with IKEA stores.”

Based on all this, Shaw has been told that his “unauthorized use of the IKEA indicia constitutes unfair competition and false advertising under Sections 43(a) of the U.S. Trademark Act, 15 U.S. C § 1125(a), and state unfair competition and false advertising laws.”

The lawyers then tell the developer, “You can of course easily make a video game set in a furniture store that does not look like, or suggest, an IKEA store.” The presumed game development experts go on to explain, “You can easily make changes to your game to avoid these problems, especially since you do not plan to release the game until 2024.”

They then immediately go on to inform Shaw that he has “ten working days of the date of this letter” to make all such changes, removing all their claimed “indicia.” Grey paths and all. The game is not up for sale yet.

Ikea is a company that saw revenue of $25.4 billion last year, and Jacob Shaw is a guy in the UK who tried to raise £10,000 ($11,575) on Kickstarter, so Shaw says he has no choice but to comply. As he seeks legal advice, he is certain that he will have to capitulate, given the costs involved in challenging anything.

“I was going to spend the last week of my Kickstarter preparing an update for all the new alpha testers,” Shaw told Kotaku. “But now I have to desperately revamp the entire look of the game so I don’t get sued.”

Clearly, trademark owners have a legal imperative to protect their trademarks, lest they lose them and their brand is recognized as generic. Presumably, that’s part of Ikea’s motivation here, as far-fetched as that may sound to anyone unfamiliar with trademark law.. Hopefully simply removing the blue box building on the menu screen should be enough to get rid of the rest of this nonsense, especially since the US enjoys much more reasonable allowances for counterfeiting than the UK.

We reached out to Ikea in both the US (where the threats originate) and the UK (where the game is based), along with trademark experts, to ask for comments, and will update if they respond.

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