Ubisoft filed to abandon the Watch Dogs trademark, according to the trademark's listing on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, but that doesn't mean that the game is dead.
Polygon spoke with Jed Wakefield, intellectual property litigation specialist at firm Fenwick and West, who said the application for abandonment doesn't necessarily mean a game cancellation or that Ubisoft will discontinuing using "Watch Dogs." Wakefield said it's possible the way the game will be presented has changed, which would necessitate the need to cancel and reapply for the name with a modified description of use.
"It doesn't look like an intentional abandonment of the mark altogether," Wakefield said, noting the five remaining trademarks were all extended recently. "There could be other practical reasons that they are letting that particular application go. They could be coming up with a different description and will reapply using that description.
"Sometimes people withdraw trademark applications as part of a resolution of a dispute of someone else using a trademark," he added. "It could be other people who own trademarks involving the term 'Watch Dogs' or other kinds of software might have reached out and expressed concerns. Or it could mean the way they're actually releasing the game would mean they couldn't come up with specimens of use that would meet the description in that particular application."
Ubisoft has filed six trademarks for Watch Dogs, none of which use the underscore for the stylized version of the title, "Watch_Dogs." These trademarks cover video games and online games as well as clothing and "entertainment services," including television programs, toys and video game instruction manuals. The abandonment application was filed on Feb. 1 for the trademark covering "game software and electronic game programs," stating that the applicant, Ubisoft, "filed an express abandonment." The application was signed by Ubisoft chairman and CEO Yves Guillemot. Ubisoft previously filed for extension of the trademark on Dec. 3, 2013, and it was granted on Jan. 28, 2014.
In addition to software, the trademark in question — created in June 2012 — also mentioned "software games recorded on CD-ROM and digital video discs for computers; software games recorded on CD-ROMs, digital video discs and cartridges for console and individual, portable gaming systems; software games that are downloadable from a remote computer site and electronic game software for mobile phones, personal digital assistants and handheld computers." Wakefield said Ubisoft could also be canceling this application because the publisher is planning to rely on the other five — one of which is expressly used for "entertainment services namely providing an on-line computer game for others over global and local area computer networks and providing information on-line relating to computer games, video games and computer and video games related products."
"From a big picture standpoint, sometimes a description of goods in an application becomes unsupportable as your product evolves and you realize that your technology or your product have outstripped the words you used to describe the goods and services," Wakefield added. "I wouldn't read into it that the company is not planning on using the mark, nor would I read into it that they're not releasing the game because of it."
Last month, reports began circling of GameStop stores in Italy and the U.S. canceling pre-orders for Watch Dogs on Wii U. GameStop told Polygon at the time that the Wii U version had not been canceled, but Nintendo's third quarter financial report published on Jan. 30 did not list Watch Dogs as a Wii U title coming this fiscal year. Ubisoft again confirmed that the game was slated to launch in the first quarter of Ubisoft and Nintendo's fiscal year 2014-2015, which begins in April.
Polygon has reached out to Ubisoft to clarify what this trademark abandonment means and will share more details as we have them.
Update: A new filing submitted today with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is petitioning the director of the office to prevent the abandonment, saying the original request was fraudulent.
"On February 1, 2014, Ubisoft Entertainment received an email from TEAS@uspto.gov notifying Ubisoft Entertainment that a Request for Express Abandonment had been filed in connection with Application Serial No. 85642398," according to the filing. "The Request for Express Abandonment purports to be signed by the Chief Executive Officer of Ubisoft Entertainment, Yves Guillemot.
"Mr. Guillemot, however, did not sign the Request for Express Abandonment, nor did Ubisoft Entertainment file the Request for Express Abandonment. The Request for Express Abandonment is fraudulent and was not filed by Ubisoft Entertainment or its representative."
The petition is requesting that the director of the Patent and Trademark Office revive Ubisoft's trademark for Watch Dogs "promptly."
A Ubisoft spokesperson sent the following statement to Polygon:
"We are working directly with the USPTO on reinstating the trademark for Watch Dogs and it will be active again in the coming days. The matter has no impact on the Watch Dogs' development."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Ubisoft had confirmed to Polygon that Watch Dogs for Wii U had not been canceled, when that confirmation was intended to be credited to a GameStop representative. Ubisoft has declined to comment on the status of the Wii U version of the game.