UFC calls out Take-Two

Mixed martial arts organization files suit against former game-publishing partner, alleging trademark violations and cybersquatting.

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And you thought the Octagon was ugly...
And you thought the Octagon was ugly...

The former-partners-turned-rivals storyline is more common in pro wrestling, but these days it's also playing out in the legal octagon, as it were. Zuffa, LLC, the company that owns and operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts organization, filed suit against Take-Two Interactive earlier this month, claiming that the publisher violated its trademarks by continuing to promote and distribute an old UFC game after its rights to do so had expired.

The suit revolves around a deal for the game rights to the UFC brand that was originally struck by two parties who aren't actually involved with the current case. According to the suit, in July of 1999, then-UFC-owner Semaphore Entertainment Group struck a five-year deal with Crave Entertainment for games based on the mixed martial arts brand. However, Zuffa purchased the UFC organization in 2001, and Take-Two received the rights to make games based on it in 2003 when it acquired TDK Mediactive, which had obtained the rights from Crave. A revised agreement between Zuffa and Take-Two extended the deal until March of 2005, with the publisher then being given a 180-day grace period during which it could sell off any existing inventory.

Now Zuffa is suing Take-Two over the last game produced under that agreement, UFC: Sudden Impact for the PlayStation 2. Published by Take-Two's Global Star Software label, the game was developed by Opus Studio and released in April of 2004. Zuffa alleges that Take-Two continued to manufacture, market, and distribute the game after the license expired, and even after the 180-day sell-off period.

The original lawsuit doesn't cite any evidence to support the allegation, but according to the industry-tracking NPD Group's figures, Sudden Impact sold more than 26,000 copies at US retailers after the sell-off period ended in September 2005. With an average selling price a little under $14, the NPD Group suggests the total retail value of those copies exceeded $365,000.

Furthermore, Zuffa is accusing Take-Two of cybersquatting, noting that Take-Two's Rockstar Games is the registered owner of www.ufcvideogame.com. While that Web site is currently down, the suit notes that it is linked to by Opus Studio's official Web site.

Zuffa claims that Take-Two and its labels "have committed acts intended or designed to disrupt and interfere, and have actually interfered, with plaintiff's present and prospective economic advantage and opportunities." The company is seeking damages for the infringements and dilution of its trademarks, legal fees, and any profits Take-Two might have made in violation of the licensing agreement.

Whatever happens, this isn't the last time the UFC will enter the gaming ring. Earlier this year, THQ signed its own five-year agreement to make games based on the increasingly popular mixed martial arts league. A THQ representative told GameSpot the lawsuit will have no impact on its plans for the license.

As for the litigants, a Take-Two Interactive representative confirmed the suit but declined to comment further, while representatives with Zuffa had not returned inquiries as of press time.

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