Marvel Enterprises has confirmed that it is suing the makers of massively multiplayer online role-playing game City of Heroes, for trademark infringement. Both South Korean publisher NCsoft and San Jose-based developer Cryptic Studios are named in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and an injunction against the two companies
The lawsuit points out that the character generation system allows users to make characters in the game which are almost identical to Marvel comic book characters, and that it is also possible for them to be given the same name as Marvel characters such as The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine.
Marvel lawyers also claim that the companies have disrupted the company's “existing and future” business prospects for licensing its characters in similar titles.
The company alleges that NCsoft and Cryptic Studios are responsible because the game is played on servers operated by the companies, which is likely to be a point of some contention if the case goes to court. NCsoft, though, will no doubt attempt to argue that it cannot be held responsible for the misuse of trademarks by its customers and that it only supplies a platform for their activities.
Marvel has previously clamped down on unauthorized 'skins' from third-party website Skindex, sending the site a cease and desist letter in early 2003 seeking to prevent it from distributing Marvel-themed 'skins' from games such as The Sims and PC superhero RPG Freedom Force. However, this is the first major developer or publisher that Marvel, who signed a deal with VU Games in 2002 to create an as yet unseen and possibly cancelled Marvel Universe MMORPG, has sought legal action against.