Don’t make Marvel angry, you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. Space Hulk, a video game based off of a board game with no relation to Marvel’s character, may be about to set off a trademark battle with Marvel over the HULK mark.
Space Hulk was originally a board game by Games Workshop, a UK based gaming company, that was first released in 1989. Although the game shares a name, it is not associated with Marvel’s big green guy. The first video game was released in 1993 and subsequent versions have been released pretty regularly since. In 1997, Games Workshop received a trademark registration for the SPACE HULK mark in a class that covers board games and computer games. Pictured to the right is the SPACE HULK mark on the cover of the first video game and the sample specimen used to demonstrate use before the Trademark Office. At the time of issuance of the mark, Marvel did not oppose the registration. Why Marvel did not oppose back then is unknown but Marvel wasn’t the billion dollar Disney company that it is nowadays and maybe that had something to do with failing to oppose.
In 2013, Games Workshop filed a new registration for SPACE HULK to expand the types of goods to cover all sorts of games but also action figures, models and even headphones. The USPTO initially refused registration of the mark based upon the description of goods but that was corrected and at no point did the Trademark Office reference Marvel’s similar HULK mark in many of the same classes. The wheel of time sometimes turns slowly at the Trademark Office and finally, in May 2015, the mark was published for opposition and Marvel appeared.
Marvel has filed a request for an extension of time, the usual first step in opposing a trademark registration. While the mark HULK has some generic meaning, Marvel has a well established use of the mark and it is very famous. First thing most people think of when they hear the word “Hulk” is the Marvel character. Particularly here, since Marvel had a very famous story arc entitled Planet Hulk where Hulk was shot into space, there is potential for actual confusion between the two marks. Marvel has until September to formally file its opposition to the mark or they can walk away and opt to not battle with Space Hulk.