The Internet exploded today following news that Sony had "abandoned" the trademark for their much-anticipated PlayStation 3 game The Last Guardian (as first reported by PlayStation Lifestyle). And indeed, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has filed a "Notice of Abandonment" to inform Sony that the trademark is reverting to public domain.
But despite rampant speculation, this doesn't mean that the long-troubled game has been cancelled, nor does it mean that Sony is abandoning anything. What it means is that the trademark expired. Sony had three years to use The Last Guardian's trademark, which was filed in 2009. They haven't. The game has not been released. So the trademark officially switched to "abandoned" status because that's what happens when a trademark expires and is not extended.
As Kotaku columnist Superannuation points out on Twitter, Sony would have until January 2013 to "prove use in commerce." In other words, they would have to release the game by then. That's not happening. While it's certainly possible that Sony has abandoned the trademark, what seems far more likely is that someone slipped up and forgot to re-register it in time. Because even if the game was cancelled, Sony would have enough of an interest in the property to protect this trademark.
So what happens now? Sony can request an appeal or easily file a new registration for the trademark. They don't have to worry about anybody stealing it just for fun, since U.S. laws make it difficult to "park" on a trademark without proving that you intend to use it. I've reached out to Sony just in case they have other plans. But this sure doesn't seem like a sign that the game is no more.
Update: Sony sent a statement to Wired's Chris Kohler: "The Last Guardian is still in development."