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Blue Planet Software, Inc. v. Games Int'l LLC, 334 F.Supp.2d 425 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Plaintiffs Blue Planet Software and Alexy L. Pajitnov sued defendants Games International LLC and Elorg Co., LLC in a dispute over ownership of the copyrights and trademarks for the popular Tetris game. Pajitnov invented the game in 1984 while working for a Soviet government agency, and it became one of the most popular videogames in the world.
The opinion explained the complex web of agreements that underlies the lawsuit:
|“|| As a Soviet citizen, Pajitnov was not permitted to personally profit from his invention, so he assigned the rights in it in 1986 to his employer at that time, the Computer Center of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., referred to in court papers as CCAS. The plaintiffs contend the grant was for ten years, while the defendants argue the grant was in perpetuity.
CCAS in turn assigned the rights it acquired from Pajitnov to the Soviet Union’s export agency, V/O Eelectronorgtechnica, referred to in the opinion as Soviet Elorg. In 1989 Soviet Elorg granted Nintendo Entertainment Systems a five-year worldwide license to produce and distribute Tetris for Nintendo and other home video systems. As part of that agreement, Nintendo filed for copyright and trademark registrations for Tetris in the United States.
As the Nintendo agreement reached its end, both Pajitnov and Soviet Elorg took steps to reclaim what they believed to be their intellectual property rights in Tetris. The two sides eventually reached an agreement in an attempt to resolve their competing claims; that agreement resulted in the creation of Tetris Co. LLC and numerous other corporate entities, including the parties in this case, through which each side would exercise its 50 percent control of Tetris Co.
The agreement ultimately failed, and the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit asserting ownership of the Tetris intellectual property rights. Each side sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that the other side was taking actions that would irreparably harm the Tetris trademark.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
The crux of the dispute, according to the court, was Pajitnov’s original grant of rights to CCAS and whether that grant was for ten years or was intended to be perpetual. Pajitnov’s original grant to CCAS and the subsequent documents supporting that grant are ambiguous, and each side presented credible evidence to support its claims. The court was unable to determine at this stage which side would suffer the greater hardship, and therefore, refused to grant either party's request for a preliminary injunction.
The court did grant the defendants’ motion with respect to the Tetris merchandising rights, finding the defendants showed that they are likely to succeed in proving they owned those rights. Pajitnov and CCAS treated the merchandising rights for Tetris separately from the copyrights and trademarks, and the merchandising agreement’s “plain and unambiguous language” shows that Pajitnov intended to transfer the merchandising rights to CCAS. Therefore, the plaintiffs are enjoined from interfering with the defendants’ exercise of their merchandising rights.