Japanese electronics giant Sony has been forced into an embarrassing u-turn over plans to launch a computer game called “Shock and Awe”, admitting the idea had been “an exercise of regrettable bad judgment”.
Just a day after war broke out the company’s US entertainment arm applied to register the defining phrase of the coalition’s military campaign as a trademark in the US.
The plan attracted widespread criticism after it was revealed by MediaGuardian.co.uk last week.
But the company has backed down in the face of a PR disaster following criticism that it was trying to make commercial gain from a war that has killed more than 5,000 soldiers and civilians.
And Sony has pledged to take steps within the company to make sure such a mistake will not happen again.
“Sony Corporation and SCEI management concurs with the views of those who have expressed strong criticisms regarding this conduct by the subsidiary,” said a statement release by the company.
“It was an exercise of regrettable bad judgment in that it disregarded the context in which the term has been used.
“SCEA will withdraw this application. Steps will be taken to heighten awareness throughout the Sony Group so as not to repeat such issues,” the statement concluded.
Sony may have been persuaded drop the application after fierce criticism across the globe from the people who buy and play its games.
A contributor to the International Game Developers Association website wrote: “The concept that they’ve registered [the trademark] before the bodies have even been cleared from the battlefield, or before the war is even over, is out and out disgusting.”
Another said: “Sony have definitely sunk to a new low. Creating a ‘Shock and Awe’ computer game is stupid and lame… Shame on you, Sony.”
And one gamer on the Xbox City website wrote: “How disgusting and tasteless is this? They sure are trying to cash in on the death and destruction.”
The application to register the term was filed with the US patent and trademark office day on March 21 – just a day after war started.
The “shock and awe” phrase, coined by former US navy pilot Harlan Ullman and adopted by Washington to describe the fierce bombardment of Baghdad, was seized upon by critics as evidence of US arrogance.
Sony applied to use the phrase for computer and video games, as well as a broadband game played both locally and globally via the internet among PlayStation users.
But the UK arm of Sony PlayStation had already expressed unease at the use of the phrase for a game.
It said it may not have stocked any games that were produced under the name in the UK for fear of offending consumers.
A swarm of companies have registered applications for war-related trademarks with the US PTO.
As a result, 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”.
Another 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 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.
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