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For example, Starcraft 1 has a unit called "Hydralisk" and from what I can tell, its unique to that game. Does this mean that I can't have a unit called 'Hydralisk' in my game? I'm not going to name my game Blizzard's Hydralisk: The RTS, only having a unit bearing the same name and looks.

I guess I'm asking whether I could have a red plumber named Mario in my game too. Not whether I can name my game Super Mario: The RTS. Additionally, Lord of the Rings 'invented' the modern Orc, and it's safe to use your own Orcs in your game, I'm not clear on what the line is.

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Assume that the look of the unit I want to make may be inspired by the art in that game, in that it's a slithering, mantis-bladed thing that shoots poison spikes.

This Law question suggests that names can't be copyrighted (but can be trademarked), but I'm not sure how that applies here.

US Copyright on games says:

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game.

An example of an original creature The Beholder from DnD is featured in some games but with permission of its creators, "Beholders are one of the few classic Dungeons & Dragons monsters that Wizards of the Coast claims as Product Identity and as such was not released under its Open Game License."

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    – DMGregory
    Jun 2 at 17:37
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First off, disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor am I a very knowledgeable person on this matter, but here's what I believe is correct.

Alright, with that out of the way. As Vaillancourt said, this would probably fall under trademark, not copyright. For trademark to hold up in court it generally requires 2 things:

A. The person who claims trademark must have proof that he is the first to use it.

B. The person who claims trademark must prove that your use of his word could possibly confuse buyers between your and his products.

Does Starcraft own Hydralisk? I have no idea.

However, as to the confusing of buyers, I don't think they could complain about using the name, or using a similar type of alien. However if you used both the name and the alien character, they might have a chance of winning a court case.

Why would they care? If you have a trademark on something, you have to defend it, or it will be hard to defend in court when you really need to.

However, whether you break trademark or not, they can still sue you and it's really not worth the money. Why don't you just use a similar alien character and change the name somewhat. They don't own Hydra, so just use a slightly different ending.

As I said, I'm not a lawyer and Copyright/Trademark are very blurry things, so if I said anything incorrect feel free to correct me in the comments.

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