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Marvel settles superhero game trade mark suit

Marvel Enterprises has settled a trade mark and copyright infringement suit brought against the developer and publisher of City of Heroes, an on-line multiplayer game in which subscribers create their own superhero characters.15 Dec 2005

Marvel, the force behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the X-Men, filed suit in November 2004, over a design feature in the game.

City of Heroes is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion on a virtual world known as Paragon City, where villains and mutants battle users in the guise of superheroes – guises that they design themselves from a huge array of features, costumes, characteristics and skills.

Marvel was concerned that this design feature allowed subscribers to copy its comic book characters, thus infringing its copyright and trade marks, and potentially affecting its ability to license the characters into other video games.

It sued for damages and an injunction, on the grounds that the characters, while developed by subscribers to the game, are created on servers run by both NCSoft and Cryptic Studios. The suit ran into some trouble in March, when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge R Gary Klausner dismissed more than half the claims.

The firms have now settled, according to South Korean games publisher NCsoft. Full details were not disclosed, but NCsoft has revealed that no changes to the City of Heroes or City of Villains character creation engine are required.

“The parties' settlement allows them all to continue to develop and sell exciting and innovative products, but does not reduce the players' ability to express their creativity in making and playing original and exciting characters,” said the firm.