Blizzard Entertainment has filed a claim against Blizzard Sport Center (“BSC”), a sports center that opened earlier this year with its location residing just a few miles from Blizzard’s Irvine, CA campus. According to a complaint filed in June, Blizzard is attempting to argue that BSC is actively and purposefully taking advantage of consumer confusion in its use of the “Blizzard” trademark to promote its business, sell merchandise, and attract customers.
At first glance, Blizzard has a few good points in this case. After all, the location of the sports center, a short sixteen-minute drive from Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, may give the impression that it’s an extension of the Blizzard Entertainment campus. Additionally, BSC’s original logo was strikingly similar to Blizzard’s:
However, after Blizzard’s demands, BSC changed their logo to look much less like Blizzard Entertainment’s. Regardless of the change in logo design, Blizzard Entertainment is still pursuing its claim against BSC due to the use of the word “Blizzard” in the name “Blizzard Sports Center”. Blizzard Entertainment argues that BSC’s use of the word “Blizzard” in its name and merchandise confuses the consumer as to the source of the services and products. According to the complaint submitted by Blizzard Entertainment:
“Buyers and persons who encounter Defendants’ sports facility (either in person or online) or encounter individuals wearing Defendants’ apparel emblazoned with the BLIZZARD Marks will think that these goods and services are licensed or approved by Blizzard. This includes initial interest confusion, confusion at the time of sale, and post-sale confusion.”
Blizzard Entertainment also claims that the use of the word “Blizzard” in BSC’s name will permit BSC to make profits off of the efforts expended in Blizzard Entertainment’s advertising and marketing campaigns. Additionally, Blizzard Entertainment argues that BSC’s willful and intentional use of the word “Blizzard” in spite of Blizzard Entertainment’s protests constitutes unfair competition in the market.
We know that Blizzard isn’t a stranger to the court system. It sued cheat creators of “StarCraft II” for copyright infringement in 2014 and just earlier this year, Blizzard won an $8.7 million judgment against game hack maker Bossland in its intellectual property infringement claim.
So, is this claim legitimate? After all, Blizzard Entertainment is certainly getting into the realm of esports with its up and coming Overwatch League. But Blizzard Entertainment does not run fitness facilities and likely will never. Will we someday get the chance to work out alongside holograms of our favorite game characters in Blizzard Entertainment licensed athletic emporiums?? Therefore, the claim to use the BLIZZARD mark in all trademark classes is very liberal.
I’m not sure this claim is going to get too far in the courts. While the gym is within a few miles of Blizzard Entertainment’s Irvine campus and may cause a little confusion at first glance, it’s hard to believe that someone would waltz into a sports center and purchase a gym membership or a t-shirt simply because of the name’s similarity. This is especially true with a logo that now looks so different from Blizzard Entertainment’s own. You are on notice weathermen, don’t use the word “blizzard” come this winter or you may get sued.