Last week, CD Projekt Red addressed concerns that its trademark on 'cyberpunk' would lead to creators in the genre being unable to use the term. Despite that, the legal situation isn't making everyone happy. Bruce Bethke coined the term back in 1980, as the title and focus of a short story he wrote. Bethke has seen attempts on the trademark come and go and he remains skeptical of CD Projekt Red's claim on the term.
"My understanding of American trademark law is that trademark depends on context," Bethke told World Trademark Review, which is a real site all about trademark news. "[So] while you can trademark a logotype or a unique variation – eg, as I recall, R. Talsorian Games' trademark was specifically for a role-playing game named 'Cyberpunk 2020' – you can't just trademark a word for all purposes everywhere. Hence when some company back in the 1980s tried to claim a trademark on the word 'cyberpunk' because they were publishing a Cyberpunk comic book, well, tough – it didn't hold up."
Bethke, like a number of other folks out there, still has a few concerns about CD Projekt Red's use of the trademark. He's still a working author, so he'd like for the term to be free to use in other creations outside of CDPR's watchful eye.
"I do rather wish someone from CD Projekt Red would contact me, though, to clarify a few of my concerns," he said. "Most of all, I wish people all over the internet would pay a tiny percentage of their attention to what I'm doing now, as opposed to something I did 37 years ago. I really wish that just once, someone would offer me an enormous fucking pile of money to lay hands upon them and pronounce them the one true purveyor of cyberpunk."
Bethke has previously said that he wishes he had "bloody well trademarked the damned thing" himself way back when he first coined the term.
Cyberpunk 2077 currently has no release date or window. Perhaps it's never coming out. All is sadness and despair.