Hasbro, Atari tangle over D&D rights

Toy maker claims publisher violated Dungeons & Dragons licensing rights by trying to sublicense projects to competitor Namco Bandai, wants out of deal entirely.

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Ordinarily, Dungeons & Dragons battles are determined by a roll of the dice. However, a newly surfaced licensing dispute over the brand is unlikely to end so quickly, or so cleanly.

Unlike a spirited bout of legal sparring, Dungeons & Dragons Online is free-to-play.
Unlike a spirited bout of legal sparring, Dungeons & Dragons Online is free-to-play.

Dungeons & Dragons owner Hasbro today announced that it has filed suit against longtime gaming partner Atari, alleging that the publisher "may have" struck an unauthorized sublicensing deal with Namco Bandai for Dungeons & Dragons game rights. Currently, there are no announced Atari Dungeons & Dragons projects in which Namco Bandai has any involvement.

Hasbro considers Namco Bandai a competitor for both its toy business and its Wizards of the Coast brand, which makes the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. In addition to video games, Namco Bandai produces toys and collectible card games for a number of properties, including its own Naruto and Dragon Ball series. A sublicensing agreement with a competitor like Namco is prohibited under the contract between Hasbro and Atari, the toy maker contends.

In a statement, Hasbro said it had been working with Atari on an out-of-court resolution for months before filing suit. The company is asking for compensatory damages and the termination of the Dungeons & Dragons licensing agreement with Atari.

Atari countered the allegations with its own prepared statement, calling the charges "meritless" and "an apparent attempt to unfairly take back rights granted to Atari."

"Atari has sought to resolve the matter without cooperation from Hasbro," the publisher said. "We regret that our long-time partner has decided to pursue this action. Atari will respond appropriately through its legal counsel in court."

This is the second time this year Atari has found itself in court over its role-playing game license. In August, Dungeons & Dragons Online developer Turbine Inc. sued Atari, claiming the publisher was deliberately under-promoting the free-to-play relaunch of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game as part of a licensing termination strategy. The suit alleged that Atari was planning to then launch its own competing massively multiplayer online role-playing game under the brand, possibly referring to the rumored Neverwinter Nights MMOG.

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