Nestle has said it will defend claims in a new lawsuit in which Atari accused the Swiss food company of pilfering its classic 1970s video game Breakout to help sell Kit Kat bars.
Nestle damaged Atari’s goodwill and reputation on Facebook, Twitter and television by exploiting the name, look and feel of Breakout, it said in a copyright and trademark infringement complaint filed in San Francisco.
Atari said Nestle and its US and UK affiliates did this to whet the appetites of “nostalgic Baby Boomers, Generation X, and even today’s Millennial and post-Millennial ‘gamers.’”
A spokeswoman for Nestle UK said: “We are aware of the lawsuit in the US and will defend ourselves strongly against these allegations.”
Kit Kat was first manufactured in 1935. It was bought by Nestle from British confectioner Rowntree in 1988.
Breakout was created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak with help from fellow co-founder Steve Jobs as a successor to Pong, and requires a player to knock down rows of coloured bricks with a paddle.
Nestle simply replaced the bricks with brown Kit Kat bars, used in a Kit Kate Bites commercial titled Kit Kat: Breakout, showing adults and children using paddles to knock the bars down, according to Atari.
Atari said it “had to have been obvious” to Nestle that its “heist” of Atari intellectual property rights was illegal.
“Nestle has no excuse,” Atari said.
The Kit Kat Bites ad ran only in the UK and no longer runs, the Nestle spokeswoman said.
Atari is seeking three times Nestle’s profits from the alleged infringement, plus triple and punitive damages.
Atari, which was founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, is heralded as one of the pioneering innovators of modern gaming culture. It was one of the dominant names in games consoles in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing computer technology into living rooms for the first time to millions of homes around the world.
Like many of its peers, Atari was a victim of the so-called video game crash of 1983 when the industry saw revenues plummet 97% from $3.2bn (€2.7bn) to $100m in two years from 1983 to 1985.
The crash was blamed on saturation in the market as Atari and its competitors vied for domination.
The resurgence in video games came when Nintendo entered the market in late 1985, becoming hugely popular by 1987. After several reinventions over the years, Atari announced in June this year that it is developing a new games console.
Reuters and staff of Irish Examiner
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