K.C. Munchkin v. Pac-Man
What was at stake? When it came to trademarks, the video game market was basically the Wild West in its early years. Games like Pong, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong were then followed by dozens of obvious copycats. This practice was certainly suspect, but never really called into question until Atari, maker of the home version of Pac-Man, saw K.C. Munchkin on its competitor, the Magnavox Odyssey. The case was one of a number of early gaming trademark disputes, but this one was made more interesting by the burgeoning home console wars.
What did the lawsuit change? K.C. Munchkin wasn’t just guilty of copying Pac-Man, it was also better made then Atari’s exclusive version, and it released in stores first. Munchkin gave Odyssey an advantage over the official game Atari had spent so much to secure, thus Atari’s lawyers moved swiftly to shut down the clearly derivative work. After winning, Atari continued its dominance in the US home consoles for several years. In the end, this case not only set a precedent for gaming trademarks, but also for how heated the home console competition can get.