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Atari Is Still Around to Haunt Independent Game Developers

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

The maker of the beloved gamer classic Pac-Man is still alive and kicking (legally) -- and kicking independent developers in the teeth.

Nineteen-eighties icon Atari is taking a stand in the USPTO this week in order to vanguard the rights to its video games that bear the Haunted House moniker. It's the sort of intellectual property demon that sends shivers down the spines of the artists who make these games.

Haunted House

Atari opposes the use of "Haunted House Tycoon" -- the name of a game developed by indy game developer Hazy Games of Infinity. Atari opposes Hazy Games' petition to trademark the name, claiming that the term "Haunted House" became well-known in the industry through "widespread and extensive use."

What's in a Name?

Oddly, this will be the first time in a while that "Haunted House" will see the inside of a patent courtroom, despite plenty of opportunities to drag in it earlier. In 2010, when Atari rebooted its version of Haunted House it did nothing to stop the handful of other app and console games that also bore the offending term. Why? Only Atari can tell you that.

Or perhaps maybe it has something to do with the somewhat shaky ground Atari and other companies have relied on. That's all a matter of law, we guess. But common sense feels like it has something to say. Haunted houses are a cultural imprint from pretty much before recorded time.

Atari's Spirit Is Gone

Atari used to be about the games. Sure that notion may be callow, but at least do people the courtesy of acknowledging it. Now Atari is essentially a holding company. The legal rights to the name "Atari" still exist, but the spirit is long gone.

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