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Midway Manufacturing v. Bandai-America

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Citation Edit

Midway Mfg. Co. v. Bandai-America, Inc., 546 F. Supp. 125 (D.N.J. 1982) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Midway Manufacturing, producer of arcade video games, brought copyright and trademark infringement claims against, Bandai-America, a producer of handheld video games, for infringement of its rights in the of Pac-Man and Galaxian videogames. Midway sought a preliminary injunction to stop Bandai from distributing an alleged knockoff of Midway's Galaxian, an outer space game in which the player controls a rocket ship defending itself against a swarm of computer-controlled aliens who attempt to bomb and collide with the player's ship.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The court granted the injunction, noting that it was not necessary for Bandai to copy Midway’s particular expressions (such as the insectile shape of the aliens' ships) in developing Bandai’s own version of an outer space game involving a ship attacked by aliens. The court was careful to note that Midway's copyright did not preclude the development of other outer space-themed video games based on the same, unprotected idea.

On Midway's motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, for preliminary injunctive relief, the trial court held that the Copyright Office was not required to conduct substantive examination to verify originality of a copyright owner's works and the Copyright Office's failure to conduct such an examination did not render copyright registration certificates invalid.

The court found that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether an ordinary lay observer would find such substantial similarity between the two works to find that copying went so far as to constitute improper appropriation. Genuine issues of material fact also existed as to copying of copyrighted video game's figure from a preexisting mechanical figure.

The court did find that the plaintiff had shown sufficient likelihood of confusion between its “Galaxian” mark and the identical mark used by the defendants to entitle it to summary judgment on the trademark infringement issue. However, it held that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to infringement between plaintiff's “Pac-Man” mark and defendants' “Packri Monster” mark, which precluded summary judgment.

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