Ikea threatens indie game creator “The Store is Closed”

Image: "The Store is Closed", Steam Store
Image: "The Store is Closed", Steam Store

Recently an indie developer announced a survival horror game called “The Store is Closed”, where the player has to survive creepy undertakings within a furniture store during the night, or as some of us call it – a regular Saturday.

As many corporate giants do, IKEA sent a cease-and-desist letter to the developers of the game “Store is Closed,” citing trademark infringement and unfair competition.  In it the Swedish giant argues that the game included a logo named “STYR” with yellow letters on a blue background similar to IKEA’s trademark, and game characters wearing yellow shirts that resembled IKEA employees’ uniforms.

In the cease-and-desist letter, they argued that “Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical stiped shirts identical to those worn by IKEA personnel, a gray path on the floor, furniture that looks like IKEA furniture, and product signage that looks like IKEA signage. All the foregoing immediately suggest that the game takes place in an IKEA store.

Guess they really are trying to close the store. Yes, pun intended.

It is important to note that trademark infringement occurs when a company or individual uses a trademark or a similar mark in a way that is likely to cause confusion among consumers or dilute the value of the original mark. However, in this case the two trademarks are clearly different, namely IKEA vs. STYR. Moreover, one could argue that the employees’ uniforms and signage don’t constitute themselves trademarks.

As would most people do when being met with the brute strength of a plywood behemoth, the developer removed all references to IKEA’s intellectual property, including the yellow and blue logo and the yellow shirts.

The gaming publication Kotaku managed to reach the IKEA team to which they responded:

“While we think it’s flattering that others are inspired by the IKEA brand, we must be diligent to ensure that the IKEA trademarks and trade dress are not misapplied. Various elements of the video game currently correspond in appearance with the IKEA brand features. We’ve reached out to the creator of the video and asked them to make changes to those elements to ensure that this is no longer the case. They expressed that they understand our request and agreed to make those changes. This should all be well in time for the expected 2024 launch of the game.”

This case highlights the importance of respecting IP rights and trademark law, as well as knowing how to deal when hit with a cease-and-desist. Businesses and individuals must be vigilant in protecting their IP, and seek professional legal counsel to ensure that their use of third-party IP is lawful. When creating content that may reference or use elements of existing brands or trademarks, it is essential to take steps to avoid any potential infringement, including seeking legal advice and modifying content as necessary.

Find out more if you want to know how to register an EU trademark.

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