WizKids has been making big moves in the board game scene by cranking out Star Trek and Lord of the Rings titles as well as spectacularly reviving their original MageKnight property. But the company is best known for its HeroClix collectible miniatures games, with which they've been making waves in the courtroom. There, the HeroClix publisher and its parent company NECA have recently won an injunction against Tree House Kids, Inc.
It's no "Apple vs. Samsung," but the debate between these two companies is over use of the term "Heroics." Particularly, Tree House Kids used "Heroics" as the name for its new line of gachapon-style 1" tall sculpted and painted superhero figurines (10 featuring Marvel characters and 10 featuring DC characters). WizKids argued that when used for superhero figurines, "Heroics" caused confusion with "HeroClix."
The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted WizKids an injunction to block Tree House Kids from "making, using, distributing, selling, displaying, manufacturing, advertising or promoting" any product that used the HeroClix or Heroics trademarks. The ruling goes further, stating that use of any other trademark that could similarly cause confusion with HeroClix will also be blocked. Already, Tree House Kids has changed the name of their product line to Zerboz.
According to a WizKids press release, the injunction was granted on August 8th, but the "Heroics" trademark shows a filing date of August 29th. For reference, the filing date for 'HeroClix" is way back in December 18, 2001. This just goes to show that as with most legal matters, things may be more complicated than they seem on the surface.
Regardless, the official trademark filing for "Heroics" spells out that WizKids controls use of the term for "game equipment, namely, collectible miniature toy figurines and accessories, and role playing equipment in the nature of game book manuals." I'm not a lawyer, but the early tide here seems to be turning in WizKids' favor. We'll just have to wait and see what the final resolution of this case is, as WizKids is still seeking damages, which includes profits and attorney's fees, from Tree House Kids.
“We have invested substantial time and resources to build a world-class intellectual property portfolio that includes the HEROCLIX brand and its considerable goodwill. Protecting that brand is a top priority for us,” says Justin Ziran, President of WizKids. “The lawsuit against Tree House Kids is part of ongoing and comprehensive efforts of NECA and its subsidiaries to aggressively enforce our intellectual property rights. We will continue to take action to protect against intellectual property infringements and counterfeiting,” adds Alexis Mueller, head of Business and Legal Affairs for NECA and its subsidiaries.