🧟 Zombies in IKEA

TOGETHER WITH...

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.

EDITOR’S RAMBLE 🗣

Hey guys!

I always to look to bring on sponsors that align with LittleLaw’s mission to make it easier to break into a legal career.

One of the biggest challenges is the mental load that comes from juggling job applications while studying for uni and managing your personal life.

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- Idin

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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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A BIT OF FUN 😄

Say this in your next law firm interview for an INSTANT training contract 👇️ 

IN OTHER NEWS 🗞

  • 👍️ A Canadian court has ruled that a thumbs-up emoji is enough to accept a contract. As the contract was agreed (with emoji) and the seller failed to supply the goods, they now have to pay around £58,000 in damages for not delivering the product. Moral of the story: be clear in your contracts!

  • 🕊️ Slaughter and May has appointed a Head of Human Rights. Moira Thompson Oliver, who previously worked at Vodafone, has a ton of experience in advising big companies on human rights and environmental issues. This move shows that Slaughter and May is serious about boosting their sustainability expertise to meet the needs of their clients.

  • 🧐 Adobe’s US$20 billion bid to acquire Figma (a rival digital design company) is being questioned by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA think is concerned that the deal could harm competition among designers in the UK. Its conducting an in-depth investigation, and both parties have a few days to address the concerns. The merger faces scrutiny from the European Commission and the US Department of Justice as well.

  • 🔬 Lewis Silkin, a UK commercial law firm, has merged with Miller Sturt Kenyon, firm know for their expertise in patents and trademarks enhance its IP practice. This merger is a big deal for Lewis Silkin — with the demand for patent expertise skyrocketing in this competitive market fuelled by fancy technology, Lewis Silkin is positioning itself as the ultimate choice for those who want to protect and unleash their innovative ideas.

AROUND THE WEB 🌐

  • 🗞️ News: Top up your commercial awareness with business news that respects your time and intelligence — written by an investment banker. The Daily Upside delivers quality insights and shares unique stories you won't read elsewhere.*

  • 🔒️ Fun: This is The Password Game — a frustrating but fun game where all you have to do is make up a password that satisfies the conditions Easy, right? (I got up to rule 16 - if you beat that, I want to hear from you)

  • 🛋️ Chill: Turn your computer screen into a cool mood light for a chill ambience. (soothing screensaver for chillaxing).

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