2003-04-15Julia Day (Guardian)
Thursday April 10, 2003
Japanese electronics giant Sony has taken an extraordinary step to cash in on the war in Iraq by patenting the term “Shock and Awe” for a computer game.
It is among a swarm of companies scrambling to commercially exploit the war in Iraq, which has killed more than 5,000 soldiers and civilians in the space of three weeks.
MediaGuardian.co.uk has learned that Sony wants to launch a computer game called “Shock and Awe”, having filed an application to register the defining phrase of the coalition’s military campaign as a trademark in the US.
It applied to register the term as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office on March 21 – just one day after war started. It wants to use it for computer and video games, as well as a broadband game played both locally and globally via the internet among PlayStation users.
The phrase, coined by former US navy pilot Harlan Ullman, was adopted by Washington to describe the fierce bombardment of Baghdad on the second night of the war – the military tactic designed to bully the Iraqi resistance into submission.
However, the crassness of the phrase was seized upon by critics of evidence of US arrogance in a war that the UN, and notably France and Russia, refused to support.
A spokesman for Sony PlayStation in the UK admitted the company might not stock the game in Britain and Europe owing to political sensitivities.
“Sometimes registering trademarks does not necessarily mean the product will be launched. But if it was deemed unsuitable then we might not ship it here,” he said.
“If indeed it is related to the Iraqi war rather than just using that phrase then, yes, it might well be something we would be very sensitive to,” the spokesman added.
However, the Sony game is only the tip of the iceberg as the US market is set to be flooded with goods ranging from T-shirts, toys, board games, train sets sunglasses, mugs and fireworks branded with slogans such as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Battle of Baghdad”.
But a British company is also planning a computer game, books, cards and magazines based on the war, called “Conflict Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad”.
SCi Games, part of computer games publisher SCi Entertainment, registered the title as a trademark in the US on February 25, having scored a hit with its original PlayStation and Xbox game, Conflict: Desert Storm.
Other goods planned for sale in the US include an “Axis of Evil” board game, “Iraqi Freedom” crockery and clothes as well as “Shock and Awe” trainers and dolls.
After September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, the US PTO was flooded with applications for trademarks for products bearing legends such as “the war on terrorism” and “remember the twin towers”.
At the time applications were also been filed for products inscribed with the phrases “Osama, can you see the bombs bursting in the air?”; “Osama, Yo’ Mama”; “9-11-01, lest we forget”; and “Operation Enduring Freedom”.
The rush to make a quick buck from the attacks attracted widespread criticism from people concerned that companies were profiting from the tragedy.