I used a cute photo the other day of mooncakes that had Rovio’s Angry Birds artwork baked onto their tops. If I was advising Rovio on intellectual property issues, I might not necessarily tell them to go after every mooncake company out there. On the other hand, I’ve started to see a lot more infringement in areas other than snacks (let’s stipulate to the software infringement – that’s a given).
Angry Birds toys, clothing, hats and other attire are already well represented. I saw Angry Birds t-shirts a few weeks ago at a local store (sorry, no photo). Because Rovio is a relatively young, and small, company, I would be utterly shocked if any of these products was licensed.
At some point, though, I wonder when Rovio will start taking action. Perhaps once they see this story in China Daily about the Angry Birds attractions at the Changsha Window of the World Park (see above photo):
The realistic version of Angry Birds recently landed on at Window of the World Park in Changsha, Hunan province. Transforming the game from virtual to reality, visitors can launch tangible angry birds into evil green pigs. An industry insider said that the theme park might inspire new marketing strategies for video game developers.
Real slingshots, toy Angry Birds, green pigs — the whole deal. Quite a production. Again, maybe this is licensed activity, but that would surprise me more than seeing green pigs fly. Or laugh. Whatever.
Maybe China Daily is right. Perhaps the Changsha park attraction might inspire new marketing strategies for game companies. One that I can think of right away is called a Cease and Desist Letter. Not exactly marketing, but it can help a developer’s reputation.
On the other hand, maybe this should all be chalked up to brand awareness. After all, maybe those happy park goers will, after enjoying themselves with the slingshots and such, go home and download the game. It’s possible, but once you let the infringement genie out of the bottle, it’s pretty difficult trying to stuff it back in again. Moreover, what happens to your brand once one of those folks in Changsha gets a beak stuck in his eye? That story will not look good on television.
Now, you might be asking what Rovio can do about all this unauthorized activity. There’s a lot of potential trademark and copyright infringement going on out there. However, since I don’t know whether Rovio has registered any “Angry Birds” trademarks in China (given the timeframe, I doubt it), they should focus on copyright.
Rovio is headquartered in Finland, which is a signatory to the Berne Convention. That means that when Rovio “published” the artwork for Angry Birds, it was automatically protected under copyright law. As China is also a signatory to the convention, Rovio can come here and enforce its copyright as well.
Sounds like a good idea, especially since they just came out with a Mid-Autumn Festival update. Something tells me that we’re going to see a lot more Angry Birds products here very soon. They are already working on a line of shoes and will be opening up a Shanghai office.