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Playing Game Dev Tycoon I noticed they rename all the console and company brands ever so slightly. Is something like this done in parody or to avoid copyright?

For example Nintendo is Ninvento and has the consoles name TES (Super TES, TES 64 etc.)

In many pokemon games (I know they are licensed by nintendo though) they make direct references to consoles.

My question is, can you make a game and directly reference Sony Playstation or SNES etc?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ No™. Sorry, this is a legal issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Almo
    Jul 5 '16 at 15:12
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Names are not covered by copyright (although logos would be). Names are subject to trademark.

Generally, yes, using the name "Ninvento" instead of "Nintendo" is an attempt to avoid trademark infringement. Generally one does this when creating a parody, as positioning oneself as such allows one to attempt to employ a "fair use" defense if or when one is served with legal action concerning the name.

Simply changing a name slightly is not sufficient to grant immunity to trademark or other intellectual property action. It's not a get-out-of-jail-free card; even if you can successfully argue "fair use" due to parody (or whatever) you generally need to go to court to do so.

If you are thinking about using marks that are similar to existing trademarks, you should consult a lawyer about the best course of action for your project. If you are thinking about using actual trademarks (that is, "directly referencing" Sony's products or the Super Nintendo, et cetera), you should definitely consult a lawyer, as you will need to obtain permission from the IP holder.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ According to this article about Rogers test, it seems you can use trademarks in your game. I would still consult a lawyer, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Jul 5 '16 at 15:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt Yes, that's basically a "fair use" defense, however. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Jul 5 '16 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, in any case, it's going to cost a lot of money to the defendant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Jul 5 '16 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this, really clears things up for me. Just a side note, you probably could not include Mario in your game but what about something like say a Tesla Coil from Command and Conquer? Would it be that Mario is heavily trademarked and because the Tesla Coil is just a part of the game it is not covered by trademark law? \$\endgroup\$
    – lozzajp
    Jul 6 '16 at 7:52

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