Sega Enterprises, Ltd. V. Accolade, Inc.

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In this recent Ninth Circuit case the issues centered on compatibility between video games. Accolade copied a Sega video game to obtain compatibility with the Sega Genesis game system. Accolade decompiled the machine readable object code from a Sega game in order to achieve compatibility with the Sega system for games that it wished to independently create and market. Accolade then created a manual containing only the functional specifications of this decompiled code and not any of Sega's actual code. Accolade next created its own games for the Sega Genesis system using only the functional specifications. The first issue in the case was whether or not this intermediate copying by Accolade constituted copyright infringement or was it a fair use of the code. Another issue the court decided was whether a screen display of Sega's trademark by the Accolade games was a Lanham Trademark Act violation. Sega included a trademark security system which was required on the game cartridge in order for the system to recognize the particular game." Accolade found this code during its reverse engineering of the Sega game and added it to their manual as a standard header to be included in all games. Thus, when Accolade games are inserted into the Sega Genesis system, the console reads this trademark security system initialization and the Sega trademark is flashed up on the screen. The district court ruled that this trademark security system code was not functional and Accolade could not use such a defense to the trademark infringement claim. The district court also ruled in favor of Sega on the copyright claim and issued an injunction against Accolade, also requiring the recall of all of Accolade's infringing games.' The Ninth Circuit then stayed the injunction and recall order, and decided to hear the case. As to the trademark issue, the appeals court ruled in Accolade's favor stating that "when there is no other method of access to the computer that is known or readily...
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