We’re used to gaming giants like Nintendo suing gamers and indie game developers, but no one expected IKEA, a well-known furniture company, to do the same. The firm issued a cease and desist letter to a single independent game developer, requesting that they make changes to “The Store Is Closed”, a horror survival game set in an Ikea-style store that is currently in development. According to IKEA’s lawyers, some media sites have found similarities between the brand and the game’s settings. This is a violation of IKEA’s copyright.
“The Store Is Closed”, according to Kotaku, is an unreleased co-op survival game in the latter stages of its Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $50,000. The game is made by a single person—a one-person game development studio—and takes place in an infinite furniture store.
As a survival horror game, it will allow players to produce weapons, construct barricades, and make additional efforts to survive being closed in the store overnight. Players will also be able to look around underground labs and make things while trying to figure out how to get out of the plot.
Surprisingly, the word “IKEA” does not appear in the game, campaign, advertising material, or other material accessible in digital stores. Furthermore, the game has not yet gone on sale, which would require legal action. That didn’t stop IKEA’s lawyers from writing to a single developer and requesting that he replace all indicia linked with the IKEA brand, as they were being used without permission. And while we agree, other aspects should be changed, such as the furniture’s tongue-twisting titles.
According to the cease-and-desist letter given to The Business is Closed developer, he put a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store; clothing identical to those used by IKEA employees; and furniture that resembles IKEA furniture. All of this would imply that the game takes place in an IKEA shop, which appears to be the case judging by the project’s images.
Kotaku, however, says that these features disappear as soon as you start playing the game, and there isn’t much connection between the game’s features and IKEA branding.
On the surface, there is no branding on the in-game material; the in-game store is called “STYR,” which is an obvious pun on the phrase “store” and, coincidentally, a Swedish word meaning control. Given the game’s setting, that name might be apt. The game’s developer said that the models and textures were bought as generic sets of furniture for the game. This means that any game can use them for a small fee from the author.
So, it appears that IKEA’s infringement allegation is based on the media making links between the brand and the game, which isn’t grounds for legal action, especially given the game producer hasn’t profited from the game. The developer was given 10 working days to eliminate any resemblance to the IKEA trademark, regardless of whether or not it goes on sale.