What do you do when the great idea you've had for a game is similar to an idea someone else already had and trademarked? Various moments in Sierra's history are known to the fans in which this exact subject came up. In 1990 Hero's Quest
had to be renamed Quest for Glory to avoid copyright problems in relation to a Milton Bradley boardgame of the same name. Sierra won and later voluntarily overturned a lawsuit related to a clone of Pacman in it's early days. The long time fans of Sierra On-Line know the stories of when things went wrong.
Here is an example of how things go right.
Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe's Space Quest
game could have been named something else if an inventor from New Orleans hadn't worked with Ken Williams and allowed Sierra to legally purchase and use the name "Space Quest" for the 1986 computer gaming classic. The inventor, Vincent Picataci, and Ken Williams exchanged several letters in the early part of 1986 before Space Quest was distributed and an agreement between the two businessmen was hammered out. Mr. Picataci got in touch with the Sierra Museum project and worked with Sierra Gamers staff to archive and chronicle this important, unknown piece of Sierra history.
To the left you can see a scan of the original Space Quest board game, copyrighted and patented in 1983. Below it is the two page letter from Ken Williams to Mr. Picataci outlining the business proposal for a non-exclusive right to use the "Space Quest" name for a piece of software the still fledgling game company was planning to release. Mr. Picataci consented (after playing a little bit of hardball and getting his price up a bit) and the rest is computer gaming history. As a special treat for Sierra trivia fans there was also a handwritten note from Sandy Crowe to Vincent in relation to a later amended agreement needing a signature, scanned and posted below.
A very special thanks to Mr. Vincent Picataci for working with us to bring this chapter in Sierra history to you and for agreeing to consent for the use of his legally copyrighted game name that is now well known and beloved by almost every Sierra fan on the planet - even if it's for another game. His careful attention to detail has delivered us a thirty year old glimpse into the business that was Sierra On-Line and a reminder that for every "copyright gone wrong" story the fans know there are likely hundreds of business agreements, copyright purchases and legal proceedings that went right and were required to bring us the games we knew and loved.