I want to be very transparent with this article and to that end, what follows is alleged, we’ve reached out to Pixel Titans and Absinthe for this and both developer’s perspectives are included in this piece. With that out of the way, developer Absinthe maintains that they received a cease and desist from the developers behind Strafe (a game currently undergoing a kickstarter campaign), Pixel Titans. Absinthe were the developers of another game called Strafe, the issue is it seems Absinthe had announced their Strafe some time before Pixel Titans had announced theirs.
Outside of Absinthe’s blog post announcing it, Absinthe also bought the url strafegame.com in January of 2014. A quick search on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website shows that Pixel Titans filed for the trademark on Strafe in June, their development blog didn’t have its first post until April of 2014 (the post was merely a nondescript entry entitled “INFO COMING SOON”) and the WHOIS for Strafe1996.com shows a creation date of August in 2014 — 7 months after Absinthe’s purchase of strafegame.com. Furthermore, Pixel Titans’ devblog can be found at strafegame.tumblr.com (which then redirects to strafedevblog.com) while Absinthe’s Strafe page is located at strafegame.com (which redirects to a page about their Strafe on their main website).
The alleged cease and desist came after Absinthe contacted Pixel Titans questioning the timeline of their Strafe versus Absinthe’s own Strafe. Absinthe maintains they weren’t angry about the overlapping titles of each game and that the email they sent was friendly in nature. Afterwards Absinthe maintains they were hit with a cease and desist from a legal firm representing Pixel Titans, demanding they show use of the title Strafe before Pixel Titans’ registered trademark date or face legal action. Absinthe at this stage seems to be planning for a name change in the future to avoid any type of legal conflict, though their site still refers to the game as Strafe.
What follows is some questions we asked of Pixel Titans regarding the allegations and their answers. (Editor In Chief Note: We wanted to present both sides because that was the right thing to do. We are not taking the part of anyone’s side in this story. That’s for you to decide)
DSOG: According to Spencer’s reports, Absinthe’s Strafe was announced earlier than yours. However, you can confirm that you trademarked Strafe before Absinthe, and that when you filed for a trademark ‘Strafe’ was available, correct?
Pixel Titans: We hadn’t heard of their game when we researched STRAFE as a name for our game so we moved forward with procuring it. When filing for a trademark you are required to pay for a search of their database to make sure the name is unused and available. We did so and got word that it was available, we were approved to file and we did.
DSOG: Do you have proof of your trademark for Strafe? (no reason to show documents)
Pixel Titans: Yes. And paying for it out of pocket for a game we were working on in our spare time was a painful investment but it appears now it was a wise one.
DSOG: Can you tell us about the letter you sent Absinthe? What kind of letter was it and what did you tell them?
Pixel Titans: When I (Thom) received their message I called Stephen to see if we should talk with these guys, their message felt passive aggressive so I was uneasy. Stephen google’d their name and found a neogaf post regarding our games Kickstarter where AbsintheGames posted
“Interesting choice for a game’s name. I need to find out when it was chosen or when development started and pull some favors from high up.”
I don’t believe it was unreasonable to contact our lawyer and attempt to protect ourselves after reading that. Our lawyer told us not to respond as he drafts a letter to Absinthe asking them to provide the required information to know where either of us stands.
There is no threat of legal action in the letter and it is not a “cease and desist”, it just explains that our notice of allowance was approved in June of last year and if there are any conflicts they can bring them to our attention. It’s in both of our best interests to not continue to develop under a name one of us can’t use.
To be clear we are legally obligated to deal with brand confusion within the same medium or we will lose our trademark and the money we spent securing it. We hated sending this message and any others we may have to send in the future but it’s what we were told to do.
DSOG: Did you know about Absinthe’s Strafe before trademarking your game? And can you comment on the similarity between strafegame.com and strafegame.tumblr.com (regarding the use of ‘strafegame’)
Pixel Titans: We were unaware of their game until after filing for a trademark and purchasing urls. We decided on the name STRAFE® because our game is a huge homage to id softwares games of the 90’s. DOOM and QUAKE (hence the caps) were big influences so we wanted a word that is used within the shooter genre but hasn’t been used as a retail title, it was also important it sounded tough and was a single consonant. The ® became a great joke that fits within the voice of our marketing and when we decided to use it the next step was to file for a real trademark.
We tried about 15S urls before landing on STRAFE1996.com as ours, the one you are referencing is our dev blog not our official site. The devblog url was chosen because @STRAFE was taken on twitter so we added game and acquired it, the next step was to have the same name across all social media to make it easy for fans to find us so we locked the Tumblr, twitter, Facebook and Instagram as STRAFEgame.
I think this article as it stands is inaccurate and serves to cause drama where there is none. Absinthe games is understandably upset that they might have to change their name but they are acting foolishly in an attempt to drum up sympathy. They posted a wall of tweets trying to get a rise out of us then deleted them hours later in an attempt to hide this (we have screenshots if needed)
Regardless none of those actions have effected what is a straightforward issue. Had they secured the name or sold a product before our filing we would be releasing our game under another title. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that we both had wanted an obvious name around the same time. We wish them luck with their game but their actions and attempts to create public drama has left us never wanting to interact with them again. We just want to make games.
Spencer joined us in early 2015, previously a console centric gamer he switched to PC a few years ago. He later helped push for an increase in Japanese content on PC with the #SEGAPCPorts campaign. Previously he ran a SEGA fansite as well as co-hosted a gaming podcast. He thinks Duke Nukem 3D is the best FPS of all time, his text message alert on his phone is literally Duke Nukem saying “Let God sort ’em out.”