Mandatory UE4 trademark in credits and potential legal risk
The most recent version of Unreal Engine 4 comes with an end-user license agreement that requires developers to associate their game with Unreal Engine 4 by stating the following in their credits:
"[Product name] uses the Unreal® Engine. Unreal® is a trademark or registered trademark of Epic Games, Inc. in the United States of America and elsewhere"
"Unreal® Engine, Copyright 1998 – xxxx, Epic Games, Inc. All rights reserved." However, the license agreement also includes the following:
"You agree not to engage in any activity that could [...] or diminish any goodwill relating to any Epic Trademarks."
All this is covered in section 11 of the EULA. My concern is that the license agreement requires the developer to include an Unreal Engine trademark, but also requires them to avoid diminishing any goodwill relating to said trademark, which can at times be beyond the developer's means. If, at some point, any non-negligible segment of the media decides to vilify a game (justifiably or not) and cast Unreal Engine's association with it in a bad light, it is within Unreal Engine's means to terminate the license agreement because of the above-mentioned parts of section 11. Termination of the agreement would essentially prohibit the game from being published. This creates a legal risk for all developers, even though Epic Games may not have any intention of holding developers liable for any perceived association between Epic and the developers stemming from the use of the Unreal engine trademark in the above-quoted statement in the credits section.
I therefore ask:
Does the mandatory inclusion of the Unreal Engine trademark in the credits section imply that the game is associated in any way with Unreal Engine or Epic Games? Does it create a risk that the products being developed, or any aspect of the development process itself, would violate section 11 of the license agreement, even if the developers did not use any of Epic Games' trademarks or brands in their game, promotional material or anywhere else?
If it does pose the above risk, would said risk be eliminated if a disclaimer were also placed in the credits after the trademark notice, stating that Unreal Engine and Epic Games are in no way affiliated with the game or the development company?
On another note, considering the above, would Epic Games ever intend to prevent adult-oriented games from being released with Unreal Engine 4 due to concerns about loss of goodwill? (I am not asking this in relation to my own work.) If not, what are Epic Games' branding policies regarding adult-oriented games? I am guessing that the mandatory trademark in the credits section must be included but that these games may not otherwise make use of the trademarks and brands of Epic Games.
Regarding the UE4 license, https://www.unrealengine.com/eula:
We see the UE4 software's role in the industry being what a paintbrushes are to artists. So section 1 provides a license to UE4 for "any lawful purpose". You are free to use the engine for anything that's legal, no matter how offensive we might find it.
However, we see the UE4 trademark differently. That's our brand and reputation there! So, section 11 restricts the use of them, and also mandates certain notices as required by copyright and trademark law. This does not restrict your use of UE4, just the manner in which the trademark is displayed.
Teams who want to use the UE4 logo outside of the required notice -- for example in a splash screen or marketing -- need to ask our permission. We generally grant it for anything that's in line with our brand and reputation, but sometimes say no.
A good example is Hated, a controversial game being developed with UE4. It's built by a very talented team, and we absolutely support their right to freely express their creative vision with our tools. However, we don't agree with their depiction of the subject matter, so, no trademark license.
BTW, I don't think this section of the EULA has changed since we launched UE4 back in March 2014.
answered Mar 11 '15 at 06:14 PM
Tim Sweeney STAFF
The copyright and trademark notices in the EULA only apply to products that include the Unreal Engine software (binary executable files). They're not required in videos, where you're just distributing pixels generated by the engine, and not the software itself.
answered Aug 13 '16 at 07:54 AM
Tim Sweeney STAFF
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