Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion name protected by the First Amendment, judge rules

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion developer Ironclad Games and publisher Stardock Entertainment are free to use the word "rebellion" in the real-time strategy game's name because it's protected by the First Amendment, a U.S. judge ruled last month.

Sniper Elite and Alien vs. Predator developer Rebellion Developments filed suit against Stardock Entertainment and Ironclad Games in 2012, alleging that its "unauthorized" of the word infringed on the studio's trademark and could "cause confusion" and "deceive purchasers."

In early May 2014, U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts granted (PDF link) the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss, agreeing that the use of the word "is expressive speech and is protected under the First Amendment."

In a post on the game's forums this week, Ironclad co-owner Blair Fraser wrote that the ruling has wider implications for developers.

"This judgement is an important result for anyone developing games and for the gaming community as a whole," Fraser wrote. "First, it reaffirms that video games are protected by the First Amendment. Second, it establishes that artistically relevant video game names are also protected by the First Amendment so long as the name isn't explicitly misleading about the content of the game or who created it. Finally, it demonstrates that a First Amendment defense of a video game can be successfully applied to a motion to dismiss thus 'preventing a chilling effect on speech.' This last point is particularly important to smaller developers who cannot afford to enter a lengthy and expensive court battle. We are very proud that this judgement could help others in the future."

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is available until June 30 for $13.59 on Steam, a 66 percent discount off the Windows PC game's regular $39.99 price during the Steam Summer Sale.

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