Unless you count their ginormous do-it-yourself furniture stores as a joke
As much as any trip to an IKEA furniture superstore may seem like a horror-themed videogame, it seems that the Swedish home furnishings giant just can’t take a joke. Or an unflattering portrayal in a real-world videogame.
Late last year, IKEA’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist letter to videogame developer Jackob Shaw alleging that his videogame The Store Is Closed unlawfully uses branding elements of IKEA stores without permission and in a manner that could lead to copyright and trademark infringement litigation.
The game was posted to Kickstarter and described itself as a survival co-op that takes place in an “infinite furniture store” based on the collaboratively written SCP wiki, where players build up fortifications to survive waves of virtual enemies.
Interestingly, the IKEA letter demanded that Shaw “remove all indicia associated with the famous Ikea stores” within 10 days of the letter’s date. Further, the demand letter alleged that “Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical striped 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.”
However, Shaw’s game makes no mention of IKEA. Instead, it refers to a mythical store as “STYR” and relies on generic views of a massive multilevel, rectangular building filled with confusing rooms and corridors and an ungodly amount of nondescript furniture. One can only imagine that IKEA would rather not make the argument to a jury that any portrayal of a giant furniture store filled with low-priced, oddly named furniture instantly conjures confusing images of its own stores.
A recent visit to the game’s website, located at www.thestoreisclosed.com, doesn’t provide any updated news regarding the threatened litigation. However, the game’s page on Kickstarter shows that the game was funded on November 4, 2022 with 2,099 backers and pledges totaling $97,670 (of the original $12,469 being sought). Thus, it appears those who like their horror stories with a healthy dose of build-it-yourself home furnishings may still be in luck.
Why It Matters.
IKEA has been known to protect its intellectual property, including its brand name and product designs and it has pushed the limits of its IP rights in previous encounters with videogame designers. Whether or not IKEA will actually pursue legal action against Shaw remains to be seen.
Of course, companies should be protective of their intellectual property in order to maintain their brand reputation, prevent confusion among consumers, and ensure that their products are not used in a way that could be detrimental to their business. But they should do so with an understanding that a sense of humor can go a long way with consumers.