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Blue Planet Software v. Games International
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
334 F. Supp. 2d 425 (2004)
Alexey Pajitnov (plaintiff) created, named, and developed the video game Tetris. Pajitnov could not commercially profit from Tetris as a citizen of the Soviet Union, so he assigned the rights to Tetris to his employer, the Computer Center of the Academy of Sciences (CCAS), an agency of the Soviet government. Pajitnov believed that his assignment had a time limit of 10 years. The CCAS assigned the Tetris rights to V/O Electronorgtechnica (Soviet Elorg), the government export agency, to act as the CCAS’s licensing agent for international transactions. Soviet Elorg granted Nintendo Entertainment Systems (Nintendo) an exclusive license for five years to produce and distribute the Tetris program on video-game systems. Nintendo was also required to file United States trademark and copyright registrations for the Tetris game in Soviet Elorg’s name. The end of Nintendo’s licensing agreement coincided with the alleged 10-year limit of Pajitnov’s original assignment. Both Pajitnov and Soviet Elorg attempted to retake control of the Tetris property rights. Pajtnov entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Bullet-Proof Software, a Japanese company, but Soviet Elorg continued to assert rights. Officers of Soviet Elorg and Bullet-Proof Software met and agreed to create a new company, The Tetris Company, L.L.C. (TTC), that would possess both sides’ alleged ownership rights and help earn licensing revenue from Tetris. Bullet-Proof Software created Blue Planet Software, Inc. (BPS) (plaintiff), and Soviet Elorg created Games International, LLC (Games) (defendant) to manage TTC. Conflict arose, and BPS withdrew from the TTC agreement. The ownership dispute resumed, and both parties acted to cause irreparable harm to the Tetris mark by contacting Tetris licensees and creating confusion. BPS and Pajitnov sued Games for trademark and copyright infringement. Both parties moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent the other from interfering with ownership rights. The court examined all the relevant documents and found that the initial grant listed the CCAS as the owner for a period of 10 years but that subsequent documents indicated a lack of time restriction on the assignment. The court found that Games had exclusive merchandising rights because the merchandising documents did not have any ambiguous language or time limits included. The court then addressed ownership.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Stein, J.)
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