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For instance can a game for collecting pets (such as cats, dogs, dragons, etc.)include a list of mythological names and then name the pets using these names?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are you concerned might stop you from doing this? Are you worried that the Greek god Zeus himself might take you to court for violation of his personality rights, or misrepresentation of his brand? Or skip the legal process and just smite you with a lightning bolt? 😜 More seriously, this seems like a question you could answer with the most cursory research of recently released games, including God of War Ragnarok, Hades, or Immortals Fenyx Rising, all of which feature characters with mythological names, with no evidence of adverse divine intervention. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Feb 7, 2023 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ You seem to be asking a lot of questions about legal topics. You should probably hire a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Feb 7, 2023 at 23:11

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Yes it can.

But you can't dress the pet, or draw it in a similar fashion that has been done before. You can't name your cat pet Zeus and dress it like Zeus the Mighty, for instance.

IANAL.

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When it comes to legal questions, then don't rely on opinions from anonymous strangers from the Internet like me. Before you publish such a project, get a consultation with a real lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law. But the way I as a legal layman understand copyright and trademark law is this:

Regarding copyright: Ancient mythology is free for the taking, because the authors are already dead for much longer than 70 years. Just be careful that what you take is really from ancient mythology and not from another much more recent pop culture adaptation of that mythology. For example, when you have the Norse god Thor in your game, that's OK. But if that Thor has lots of aspects that aren't from Norse mythology but actually adapted from the Marvel character of the same name, then you might get into trouble with the almighty legal department of The Mouse.

But then you still need to be wary of trademarks. Because with trademarks, the question is not "who invented it", but "who uses it in commerce".

The purpose of trademarks is to avoid consumer confusion. The legal argument that is made in court to get someone liable for trademark infringement is "Consumer who want to buy our product could get confused by the similar name of this competing product and buy that instead".

For example, if you would name a game "Hades", then you could probably get into trouble with Supergiant Games because consumers could mistake your game for theirs and thus cost them sales. The excuse "But the term Hades is a concept from Greek mythology that is thousands of years old" would probably not save you. However, if you have just a location named "Hades" in your game while the game itself is named something completely different, that's probably not a trademark violation, because with an entirely different title it's unlikely to lead to consumer confusion.


For more information on copyright and trademarks for game developers, I recommend this video presentation from GDC 2018: Practical IP Law for Indie Developers 301: Plain Scary Edition.

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