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Netrunner trademark filing sends players speculating on the cyberpunk card game’s future

Wizards of the Coast files for use of the name for “downloadable electronic games”, among others.

Someone in the Android: Netrunner community discovered that Wizards of the Coast is filing legal paperwork for a trademark over the name ‘Netrunner’, leading the community to speculate on whether the trading card game’s possible return to the Dungeons & Dragons publisher bodes good or ill.

Reddit user u/Bithlord posted a link on August 24th for a US trademark application and shared it to the r/Netrunner forum. The application is actually one of three related filings all submitted by the Washington-based company on June 23rd and seem to cover a lot of potential bases regarding future use of the cyberpunk-themed title.

The initially linked filing claims it is “intended to cover the categories of downloadable electronic games to be used in connection with computers, console gaming devices, and wireless devices,” while the others detail its use for “online computer games and interactive multiplayer online computer games” and “role playing games, board games, trading card games and collectible toy figures”.

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Originally designed by Richard Garfield in 1996 and published by Wizards of the Coast from then until 1999, Netrunner was licensed to Fantasy Flight Games in 2012 and rebranded as Android: Netrunner. This iteration combined FFG’s living card game format - similar to Arkham Horror: The Card Game - and the cyberpunk setting and theming of the Android board game line.

That licensing deal ran its course in 2018, and Fantasy Flight Games announced it would no longer be supporting Android: Netrunner with any further expansions or releases. A collective of players and fans filled the gap with Project NISEI, or simply NISEI, which maintains its own core sets of cards, has released expansions and maintains a competitive environment through curated rules and banlists.

For legal purposes NISEI’s Netrunner is a separate game that just happens to be highly compatible with FFG’s Android: Netrunner’s catalogue of cards, and the former publisher has let the community initiative thrive largely without incident. Players are worried that the reentry of the historically litigious Wizards of the Coast threatens that ecosystem.

On their own, there isn’t much that can be gleaned from the filings. All three list an intent to use on the paperwork, meaning Wizards of the Coast must make a “good faith intention” between six months and a year of filing, according to the US patent and Trademark Office. That can be as simple as printing the name Netrunner on a card - such as something within 2022’s Magic: The Gathering set Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty that was revealed earlier this week - or as complex as an entirely new game or digital client for something akin to Netrunner.

Extending the filing to cover physical games, video games and digital software is likely just a broad first step, as Wizards of the Coast has made recent investments in all three directions over the past five years and seems eager to continue. Magic: The Gathering Arena received its first dedicated set of cards in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons on August 26th, and while the recently released Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance didn’t quite garner the acclaim the company wanted, earnings calls showed continued interest in taking its properties beyond the tabletop.

Dicebreaker has reached out to Wizards of the Coast and Fantasy Flight Games for more information about the trademark filings and what it means for the future of Netrunner. This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

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