WizKids has filed suit against Wizards of the Coast seeking a declaratory judgment that will invalidate WotC's 'CSG' patent and forestall any attempts by Wizards of the Coast to enforce any patent rights by claiming that WizKids' series of Pirates Constructible Stategy Games infringe on WotC's recently granted patent (see 'WotC Announces CSG Patent').
When contacted by ICv2, WizKids confirmed that the company had filed suit, but had no comment on a number of questions concerning its legal action. Likewise Wizards of the Coast has not answered ICv2's queries about the case or whether it planned a countersuit.
When questioned after the announcement about its 'CSG' patent, a spokesperson for WotC told ICv2, 'We have no plans at this time to take legal action against any other industry players who may have existing or future games that fall within the scope of this patent.' But Wizards reportedly contacted WizKids in 2004 giving notice that it had applied for the patent for a punch-out constructible game and suggesting strongly that, when and if the patent were granted, WotC would take action against WizKids unless the latter would refrain from producing, marketing and selling its Pirates CSG.
Ironically Wizards of the Coast was nearly done in by an intellectual property infringement lawsuit filed by Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Books over WotC's first project, a multi-system rulebook, The Primal Order, which was published in 1992. Later in 1997 when WotC's patent for many of the elements of the collectible card game, which the company had pioneered, was approved, WotC sent out cease and desist letters to other manufacturers who had moved into the category following the enormous success of Magic the Gathering. Although several manufacturers did decide to play ball with WotC, most just continued business as usual and the number of CCGs releases has continued to expand.
WotC did bring the issue up again in its lawsuit against Nintendo (see 'Wizards Sues Nintendo'). That suit was quietly settled, with the terms confidential (see 'WotC, Nintendo Settle Pokemon Dispute').
Will WotC be able to enforce its 'CSG' patent? Wizards has not enforced its CCG patent, though that marketplace involved many more manufacturers than the current CSG category. WizKids' lawsuit is clearly a pre-emptive strike designed to forestall any legal action from WotC, and to gain the tactical advantages of being the plaintiff.
The dispute involves some very interesting intellectual property issues, and its resolution may set a precedent that will affect innovation in the games arena in the coming decades.