The rights to Ms. Pac-Man are caught up in a messy legal battle
AtGames allegedly misrepresented itself in negotiations with original developers.
The complicated rights situation behind Ms. Pac-Man is at the heart of a legal battle between Bandai Namco—which owns the Ms. Pac-Man trademark and copyright—and retro hardware maker AtGames—which has now purchased the separately held royalty rights to the game.
The strange situation dates back to 1982, when a group of MIT students created an unauthorized “enhancement kit” named “Crazy Otto” for Bandai Namco’s arcade hit Pac-Man. The MIT group, which organized under the name General Computer Corporation, then reached out to US Pac-Man distributor Bally Midway to develop that modification into the officially licensed Ms. Pac-Man.
As part of the Crazy Otto licensing deal, GCC received the right to a perpetual royalty payment whenever a Ms. Pac-Man game was sold. Bally Midway retained the copyright and trademark rights to the game and its characters, though, which Bandai Namco eventually reacquired in the intervening years.
“All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.” —IBM Manual, 1925
I have been following this since the first hints of a kerfuffle and other shenanigans became known, and…it’s kind of amazing, really, that we don’t hear about more of these kinds of things all the time with IP changing hands and winding up with buyers who perhaps don’t understand that other parties and other rights are involved.