Along with titles like EyeToy and SingStar, Sony's Buzz! line of quiz games for the PlayStation 2 have been part of a concerted effort on the part of the electronics giant to court a more mainstream audience with its gaming console. However, one company already well-established in serving that sector's trivia needs thinks Sony's family friendly games are a little too familiar.
Carlsbad, California-based Buzztime Entertainment filed suit against Sony Computer Entertainment Europe in the Southern District of California last week, alleging that the Buzz! line of games and the "It's time to get buzzing" tagline violate several of its own trademarks. Established in 1985, Buzztime makes a line of electronic trivia games most commonly found in restaurants and bars, with an estimated 13 million players each month. The company also runs quiz services over mobile phones, digital cable and satellite systems, and even offers home versions (some of them Coleco-branded) that hook up to a TV and include differently colored wireless controllers.
Buzztime does not have a trademark on the word "buzz" for use in games, but it does have a variety of similar trademarks registered as far back as 2001, including "Buzztime," "Buzzhead," "Share the Buzz," and "Buzzkids." SCEE has filed for a trio of trademarks for "Buzz!" (one with the exclamation point, two without). Each of SCEE's marks has been published for opposition, though none of them are officially registered yet.
The Buzztime Entertainment trademarks cover uses of the terms for "entertainment in the nature of interactive games played via interactive television and an interactive global computer network," and "equipment for playing a plug and play game, namely, video game machines for use with televisions, video game interactive remote control units, video game cartridges, and interactive video game programs," among other things.
Buzztime is accusing SCEE of selling similar products to similar audiences, sometimes through similar channels with the intention of misleading consumers into believing the Buzz! series of games has some association with Buzztime. The suit also alleges that SCEE is guilty of "malicious, fraudulent, knowing, willful, and deliberate" violation of its trademarks.
In addition to the recall and destruction of all infringing products, Buzztime is asking the court for actual damages, punitive damages, legal fees, and an order to the US Patent and Trademark Office not to register SCEE's pending trademarks.
As of press time, SCEE representatives had not returned GameSpot's requests for comment.