unexpectedly Move over, furniture giant Ikea sent a solo independent developer to stop and stop Message has been reviewed by KotakuAsks him to make changes to unreleased A survival horror game in an Ikea-like furniture store. lawyers representing Ikea claims that the game is committing trademark infringement because some press outlets have made comparisons between its official brand and the game. The A Swedish company has given developer Jacob Shaw just ten days to “change the game and remove all indicators associated with popular Ikea stores.”
Store closed It’s a co-op survival game that hasn’t been released, that’s only in the last week For a successful Kickstarter campaign Collected just over $49,000. Created by a single developer, using the studio name Ziggy, the game describes itself as “setting in an endless furniture store”.
“You’ll need to craft weapons, build fortifications in order to survive the night,” the propagandist continues. “Explore SCP’s underground laboratories and build towers in the sky to find a way out.” You know, as in the real IKEA? Crucially, the word “Ikea” was not uttered anywhere in any of the game’s promotional materials, on its Steam, during its Kickstarter campaign — nowhere else.
But despite this, and even though the game was never offered for sale anywhere, Ikea’s attorney in New York, Fross Zelnick, wrote to Shaw asking to change anything in the game that might remind people of their brand.
“Our client knew you were developing a video game.”Store closed“,” explains the legal letter, “which uses, without permission from the customer, indices associated with popular IKEA stores.”
It then goes on to list the infringing aspects of Shaw’s game.
“Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical stiped shirts identical to those worn by IKEA personnel, a gray path on the floor, furniture that looks like IKEA furniture, and product signage that looks like IKEA signage. All the foregoing immediately suggest that the game takes place in an IKEA store.”
Shaw gave me access to an early alpha build of the game, during which the “blue box-like building” and “blue and yellow sign” appear, in their totality, on the menu screen. After that, you don’t see them. There’s currently no branding at all in-game. The store is called “STYR.” Clearly a joke spelling of “STORE,” it is, by coincidence, a Swedish word, meaning “controls.” You know what’s not a Swedish word? “Ikea.” It’s the initials of its founder, a farm he grew up on, and a nearby village. Notably, stores like Tiffany have a trademark over the color that they use in their packaging, so in some ways Ikea isn’t coming completely out of left field here.
Then there are the claims that it has “furniture that looks like Ikea furniture.” But Shaw disputes that he designed any furniture with Ikea in mind. “I bought generic furniture asset packs to make this game,” Shaw said, meaning that this is furniture that can be featured in any game for a price. “I don’t know what that means.” The game does, however, have a grey path on the floor. It is also common for stores to have signage that tells the customer where to go.
Ikea’s argument hinges that the game infringes on their brand because press sites have made the association, rather than the game itself aligning naming Ikea.
One headline says, ‘Someone Has Made a Survival Horror Game Set In IKEA.’ Another headline says, ‘The Backrooms meets Sons of the Forest in new IKEA horror game.’
Those were the two headlines we could find, but it’s possible there are more. The letter also includes the subheadings of these stories as part of the evidence, going on to then state:
“Further, numerous comments by readers of these stories make an association with IKEA stores.”
Based on all this, Shaw has been told that his “unauthorized use of the IKEA indicia constitutes unfair competition and false advertising under Sections 43(a) of the U.S. Trademark Act, 15 U.S. C § 1125(a), and state unfair competition and false advertising laws.”
The lawyers then tell the developer, “You can of course easily make a video game set in a furniture store that does not look like, or suggest, an IKEA store.” The presumed game development experts go on to explain, “You can easily make changes to your game to avoid these problems, especially since you do not plan to release the game until 2024.”
They then immediately go on to inform Shaw that he has “ten working days of the date of this letter” to make all such changes, removing all their claimed “indicia.” Grey paths and all. The game is not up for sale yet.
Ikea is a company that has seen Revenues reached $25.4 billion last year, and Jacob Shaw is a man in the UK who tried to raise £10,000 ($11,575) on Kickstarter, so Shaw says he has no choice but to comply. As he seeks legal advice, he is sure he will have to give up, given the costs involved in challenging anything.
“I was going to spend the last week of Kickstarter preparing an update for all the new alpha testers,” Shaw told Kotaku. “But now I have to desperately renew the entire look of the game so I don’t get sued.”
It is clear that trademark owners have a legal duty to protect them, lest they lose them and their trademark is recognized as generic. This is supposed to be part of Ikea’s motivation here, as it may seem overkill to anyone unfamiliar with trademark law.. Hopefully removing the blue box on the menu screen will be really enough to get rid of the rest of this nonsense, not least because the US flies in much more reasonable suits to circumvent the UK
We have contacted Ikea in both the US (where the threats originate) and the UK (where the game is located), along with brand experts, to request feedback, and will update if they respond.
“Unapologetic communicator. Wannabe web lover. Friendly travel scholar. Problem solver. Amateur social mediaholic.”