The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has refused Microsoft's application for the Killer Instinct trademark because it's held by another company.
That company is Fox, which registered the mark for a crime drama TV series called Killer Instinct.
According to the USPTO, if Microsoft was granted the Killer Instinct trademark it might cause confusion - this despite the TV show running for just one season in 2005.
Trademark Act Section 2(d) bars registration of an applied-for mark that so resembles a registered mark that it is likely that a potential consumer would be confused, mistaken, or deceived as to the source of the goods and/or services of the applicant and registrant," the USPTO said.
The suggestion that there would be confusion between Killer Instinct the TV show and Killer Instinct the video game sounds silly, but according to the USPTO despite the differences between the two mediums they can be related. It points to games based on TV shows, including Lost and NCIS, as evidence of this. If a Killer Instinct game was released by Microsoft, some might think it related to the Fox TV show, it claimed.
Three months ago Microsoft took the unusual step of announcing it had applied for the Killer Instinct trademark, but it didn't say why.
The announcement set tongues wagging on a potential new game in the fighting series. Does Microsoft plan an Xbox Live Arcade re-release of the original 1994 arcade and SNES fighting game, developed by Rare? Or perhaps an XBLA version of Killer Instinct 2, which released in arcades in 1996, or Killer Instinct Gold, which released on the N64?
Or maybe it's planning a new entry into the series? Killer Instinct 3?
The ball is now in Microsoft's court. It may contest the USPTO's decision if it is serious about obtaining the Killer Instinct mark. Or it could rename the game it's working on.