Technology April 2023

Shades of Blue and Yellow

IKEA sends cease-and-desist letter to indie game developer.

Written by Celese Keene

Tradmark law cropped up in an unexpected arena when furniture retailer IKEA sent a cease-and-desist letter to a small, indie video game developer over alleged trademark infringement. Cease-and-desist letters are common weapons wielded in intellectual property disputes, and IKEA’s letter was no different.

Ikea Claims Trademark Enforcement in C&D Letter
IKEA took issue with a relatively unknown video game named The Store is Closed. In the game, players are tasked with surviving in a furniture store that continues on infinitely. Details are sparse because the game, created by a studio named Ziggy, is unreleased. In fact, the game is still at a Kickstarter campaign funding stage, having only raised tens of thousands of dollars so far.

Ziggy promises players will spend hours enjoying a cooperative experience of having to survive nights in a furniture store where they will be expected to craft weapons, build shelters, and eventually escape. While Ziggy has been careful to avoid any mention of IKEA in promotional materials or the game itself, IKEA’s letter demands that Ziggy make significant changes to the game.

Trademark Enforcement Claiming Reminiscent Look and Style
Currently, according to sources, The Store is Closed does use blue and yellow signs throughout the furniture store that are similar to the hues used by IKEA. The furniture store also only has four letters in its name “STYR” (as opposed to “IKEA”) and supposedly has furniture reminiscent of IKEA’s styles as well. Regarding the furniture, Ziggy claims that it purchased generic furniture packs to use in its game, which means that it is unclear whether the actual creator of the furniture packs tried to emulate IKEA’s style. As such, it is important to note that Ziggy cannot concretely deny the furniture used in the game is not derivative of IKEA’s styles. And, as color is a recognized and protectible form of trademarking, IKEA taking issue with the blue and yellow signs in the game is understandable.

Fortunately for the game developer, as the game is not set to release until at least 2024, Ziggy still has considerable time to change the look of the furniture and signage in the game to avoid the claims of unfair competition, false advertising, and trademark infringement lodged by IKEA. It might behoove Ziggy to change all the aforementioned issues as the concept of the game does not appear to be significantly impacted by any connection to IKEA’s wares

Key Takeaways on Trademark Enforcement and IKEA’s Cease and Desist
IKEA has sent a small, indie game developer a cease-and-desist letter over a game in early development. This goes to show:

  • Rights for famous trademarks should be actively policed;

  • A combination of colors can be representative of brands to consumers; and

  • The use of third-party asset packs will not make a developer immune to claims of infringement. TBJ

This article was originally published on the Klemchuk Ideate blog and has been edited and reprinted with permission.

Headshot of Celes KeeneCELES KEENE is of counsel to Klemchuk in Dallas. Her practice focuses on intellectual property and internet law, e-commerce, and data privacy. Keene has also served as in-house counsel in the telecommunications industry.

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