🧟 Zombies in IKEA


In today’s email:

  • Contracts need more emojis

  • Make a password, just for fun

  • Zombies wanted to get into IKEA

  • Turn your laptop into a mood light

  • Lewis Silkin is looking to be the innovator’s law firm

  • Slaughter and May gets serious about human rights

… and more!

If you take just one thing from this email…

Sometimes (read: a lot of the time), legal disputes aren’t decided by legal principles. They’re just decided by who has deeper pockets.


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🧟 Zombies in IKEA

What’s going on here?

Theres a video game called ‘The Store Is Closed’ where you have to escape a store at night while all the staff-turned-zombies are trying to kill you (yes… that’s actually the game).

The setting of the game looks a lot like an IKEA store — I mean check out these side-by-side images 👇️ 

Here’s a clip from the game

Here’s the outside of an IKEA store

IKEA threatened legal action against the game’s UK-based developer saying they need to change how the store looks so it’s not similar to IKEA’s. The case raised a big debate about who owns intellectual property (IP) in video games and how much games should be able to use without getting in trouble.

When was this?

The game was announced in 2021 and the developer, a lone guy called Jacob Shaw (who goes by Ziggy), shared a trailer for it — if you’re brave enough, here it is 👇️ 

IKEA’s lawyers, from the New York-based firm Fross Zelnick, kicked up a fuss in October 2022. They wrote a letter to Ziggy telling him he had to change the design of his game so it looks less like IKEA.

What did IKEA have a problem with?

IKEA’s lawyers didn’t like the game’s:

  • “blue box-like building”,

  • “furniture that looks like IKEA furniture”,

  • “product signage that looks like IKEA signage”,

  • “blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store”, and

  • “yellow vertical striped shirts identical to those worn by IKEA personnel”.

Basically, they thought everything looked like IKEA and said they “must be diligent to ensure that the IKEA trademarks and trade dress are not misapplied”.

In short, IKEA was scared that its hard-earned brand was being:

  1. exploited (maybe Ziggy wanted to use IKEA’s branding to make the game more popular), and

  2. damaged (not sure if IKEA would be cool with its staff portrayed as zombie murderers — typical suits!).

So, who’s in the wrong?

Video games use real life elements, like brands, cities or buildings, all the time — it makes the game more a more realistic experience for the player.

But this game did seemed to have an undeniably close resemblance to every element of IKEA.

Ziggy himself denies it — he said he used generic furniture asset packs he bought to make the game and didn’t try to create anything to look like IKEA… we’ll let you by the judge of that 👇️ 

Was the store in this game an IKEA rip-off?

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What’s the big picture effect?

Claims like this are understandable — companies like IKEA spend years and big money to create their brand and image.

They don’t want to give that up lightly (or let it be affiliated with murderous zombie staff).

But there’s a balance to be struck between protecting brands and allowing creative works to include things that resemble real life.

If the law moves too far to protect brands, then creativity would suffer. Game creators (or other creatives) would be put off from using anything from real life in their products for fear of getting in trouble — unless they go down the very, very time-consuming and unlikely route of agreeing a licence for every brand name they use.

Why should law firms care?

In the end, the creator of The Store Is Closed said “now I’ve got to desperately revamp the entire look of the game so I don’t get sued.”

It seems like going up against a multi-billion pound company in a full-blown IP litigation war was too much to ask for the one-man team behind the game.

So sadly, we won’t be see exactly how this would have played out in court.

But today, online content is being created endlessly. Companies need to be aware of how their brands are being portrayed in these and that’s no easy task!

Commercial law firms have big-name clients with well-known brands which are ripe for having their IP nicked.

IP lawyers often get involved with every stage of a claim, usually starting by writing a letter, like the one Ziggy received — but eventually these claims can end up in court.

Sadly, as we’ve seen here, the issue is often not settled by legal analysis, but by ‘who has the most money to fight it’. IKEA has more money to fight, so Ziggy had to fold. But that’s a discussion for another newsletter! (let me know if you’re interested in a newsletter on the issues surrounding access to justice — not a super commercial topic, but interesting and very important).

The game itself is still due to come out next year, although there’s not been an update from Ziggy for a while — maybe he’s busy changing the virtual sign outside the store.


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