Civilization ownership disputed

The protracted struggle over the name and concept of the game Civilization entered a new phase Wednesday when the publisher of the popular Sid Meier's Civilization lineup of award-winning strategy games filed a lawsuit against Activision and the Avalon Hill Game Company in order to secure the use of the Civilization name in future titles.

The protracted struggle over the name and concept of the game Civilization entered a new phase Wednesday when the publisher of the popular Sid Meier's Civilization lineup of award-winning strategy games filed a lawsuit against Activision and the Avalon Hill Game Company in order to secure the use of the Civilization name in future titles.

Everything was going great for MicroProse after the release of Civilization II until Activision reportedly licensed the rights to the original Civilization from the Avalon Hill Gaming Company, which had published the board game outside of Europe many years before.

Sid Meier's original concept expanded far beyond the bounds of the board game and at the same time managed to avoid copyright infringements by prefixing the title with Sid Meier's name. After Activision's shrewd licensing, MicroProse decided to up the ante, acquiring Hartland Trefoil Ltd., the original developer/publisher, based in England. Of course, MicroProse has a lot riding on the Civilization name, with Ultimate Civilization II and numerous other related projects down the pipeline for both the PC and next-generation gaming consoles.

Filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, the complaint includes "claims of false advertising, unfair competition, trademark infringement, and unfair business practices as a result of Activision's recent announcement of plans to develop and publish Civilization computer games under a purported licensing agreement with Avalon Hill. The lawsuit challenges Avalon Hill's ownership of trademark rights to the Civilization name and charges that Activision and Avalon Hill are wrongfully attempting to trade on the enormous goodwill and consumer recognition developed by MicroProse in the Civilization mark for computer games."

M. Kip Welch, vice president and general counsel of MicroProse, also stated that, "By bringing this lawsuit, MicroProse is serving notice that it is determined to protect its Civilization brand and intellectual property."

Expect more news from the front lines as the battle continues.