Developing a strong intellectual property portfolio represents one of the most important tasks facing a company. No matter the size of the company, protecting inventions and artistic works via patent and copyright law seems obvious. However, even if company doesn’t create anything original, strong IP protection can be found through trademarks on brand names. That way, you can prevent a competitor from using a name too close to yours for similar goods or services. Obviously, your main name becomes your most important trademark; however, protecting individual sub-brands can be equally important. A large company like Nintendo provides a good example of trademark protection, and an insight into potential new Zelda games.
Nintendo’s Vast Trademark Portfolio
According to a USPTO database search, Nintendo owns over 275 active trademark registrations and applications in the gaming class. In fact, in total, Nintendo owns almost 500 registrations and applications across all classes. In addition, over 60 registrations exist including the term NINTENDO, meaning that the remaining 400+ marks are non-house marks. This shows that Nintendo not only values is house mark, but also protects names across its gaming portfolio. As such, other game developers must stay away from names close to Nintendo’s games to avoid trademark infringement.
Beyond the raw numbers, digging into the applications themselves provides insight into Nintendo’s future plans. In 2020-2021, Nintendo experienced the 35th anniversary of its Super Mario Bros. series. The year included releases of a new Paper Mario game; a remaster of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy; an online battle royale named Super Mario Bros. 35; Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit; a limited-edition Game & Watch; and Super Mario 3D world (released last week). Nintendo clearly enjoys anniversary celebrations, and its Zelda series celebrates its own 35th anniversary on February 21, 2021.
Zelda Turns 35 – New Games on the Horizon?
So, looking through the USPTO database, you can find new applications for THE WIND WAKER (originally released in 2002); MAJORA’S MASK (originally released in 2000); PHANTOM HOURGLASS (originally released in 2007); and THE ADVENTURE OF LINK (originally released in 1987). These applications claim priority to Japanese applications from early 2020; all but PHANTOM HOURGLASS appear to be heading toward registration at the moment.
Based on the evidence above, it appears that Nintendo is gearing up for a substantial Zelda 35th anniversary announcement. We’ll have to see if what happens, but the point is this – trademarks provide key insight into company priorities. By building a strong trademark portfolio, companies can make it difficult for competitors to gain a foothold in an industry.
Not necessarily – variations of a house mark, for example, don’t usually require trademark protection. But if in doubt and budget allows for it, trademark early and trademark often.
New trademark applications publish online after about a week.