Years in the making already and probably still far from done, CD Projekt Red’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 currently has fans frothing at the mouth. Partly for its wicked-cool post-human themes of transcendence and digitisation in a future that is quickly approaching, and also for some recent legal manoeuvring on the part of the developer.
CD Projekt Red recently trademarked the term “Cyberpunk”, resulting in fans quickly voicing their concerns that the umbrella term for a vast array of fictional media could find itself slapped with plenty of lawsuits in the near future. The developer behind the Witcher series however, wants to assure fans that they’re not seeking to become one of those guys who wields a tight grip on their trademark, and that they’re merely going to use it for the protection of their upcoming game. As CDPR explained on Twitter:
We want to protect our hard work and we don’t plan on using the trademark offensively—it’s a self-defence measure only.
The fan concern isn’t exactly without merit. Cyberpunk dystopias and themes have been fertile ground for creators across a wide spectrum of media, with the main threat that consumers of that fiction fearing being that the second they start a project with a cyberpunk label in its title, CD Projekt Red will come crashing down on their heads with the force of a thousand lawyers.
It’s not without precedent either. Years back, Tim Langdell sought to enforce a copyright of “Edge” against the likes of EA’s Mirror’s Edge, a move that resulted in his trademark being booted and the internet rejoicing (YE’VE LOST YER EDGE LADDIE!). More recently, Candy Crush dealers King have gone on the attack at the merest mention of any game using a sweet confectionary title, and they’ve now got their lawyers working on making certain that the word “SUPER” belongs to them.
That’s gigantic companies for you. Although I’ve kind of got some more faith in CD Projekt Red, whose attitude to gamers has been somewhat exemplary so far. “If someone names their game: ‘John Smith: Adventures Set in a Cyberpunk Dystopian Society’ or ‘20 Short Video Games Set in Cyberpunk Worlds,’ none of them should be treated as an infringement of our rights,” CDPR wrote.
That’s rather fair. The trademark will easily protect CDPR in case they decide to produce a sequel and find that some fly-by-nighter on Steam has flipped a few assets and created Cyberpunk 2078 in an attempt to cash in on their momentum. It’s how the trademark’s defences will be applied in the future, that’ll make all the difference here.
Still, I’d trust CDPR to not eat that last slice of death by chocolate cake in the fridge. Better that they have the trademark, than any other monolithic company on Wall Street.