According to an update on the trademark page for Shenmue on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, SEGA has apparently lost the trademark to Shenmue in the U.S. The current status, which was updated today reads, “Registration cancelled because registrant did not file an acceptable declaration under Section 8.”
As DualShockers notes, Section 8 is “a regulation that requires a sworn declaration on the ‘continued use’ of a trademark or ‘excusable nonuse,’ to be provided between the 5th and 6th years and between the 9th and 10th years after the registration date. Since the trademark was registered in 2002, the second step wasn’t successfully completed.” It appears that SEGA didn’t submit the required declaration to retain the Shenmue trademark.
This doesn’t mean that SEGA has lost the rights to the Shenmue intellectual property but just the name itself. Theoretically, someone could create a game using the Shenmue name and apply for a trademark, but it would likely have to be very different than the Shenmue SEGA created.
It’s likely SEGA will resolve this issue relatively quickly, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. We’ll reach out to SEGA of America today to see what they have to say.