This is so true – GW are sticklers for slapping (TM) on anything and are as bad as Apple and Disney for hunting down anyone using their ‘trademarks’.
And some lawyers resent that their profession gets so much hate…
No, lawyers resent bad lawyers that draw the hate. There’s a difference between zealously defending your client’s interests and completely destroying the law in order to do it. Blurring trademark, copyright, and patent laws is bad for everyone in the long run and a good lawyer would realize that and advise his client of same. A bad lawyer just churns out C&D letters in order to bully anyone who’s not strong enough to fight back.
there are a metric ton or seven of bad lawyers out there then.
I’m wondering how Games Workshop expects to come out ahead in this at this point.
They’ll just jack up the prices on their miniatures, again. Or maybe release a new codex.
If history repeats itself the players will wine and complain and pay anyway.
If you want to be entertained (for varying definitions of “entertained”) for a couple hours, look into Games Workshop’s lawsuit with Chapterhouse Studios, LLC. In short: Chapterhouse was making minis using GW product ID, and GW threatened to sue. Chapterhouse lawyered up rather than roll over, and the case is showing that GW was TOTALLY unprepared to actually defend their IP. It’s almost hilarious.
This comic makes me angry rather than mirthful.
This kind of realism will do that…
Just make sure to create and upload a Games Workshop minifig to Thingiverse, and download and 3D print those that other people create.
GW made most of their money on expensive plastic miniature figurines, home-affordable 3D printers pretty much kills their revenue stream.
Yes, and then they slap you with a lawsuit. Don’t think they wouldn’t, after all this strip is based off of truth.
Just for reference you don’t need to invent a concept to use it as a trademark. Apple computers didn’t invent apples but still owns a trademark on them for computers.
What’s next? Marvel and DC trying to prevent people from using the word “superheroes”? Oh, wait… they did.
Well, at least the book Spots the Space Marine is back on the virtual shelves.
Aaron, I don’t think that Games Workshop has done anything wrong by trademarking the term “space marine”, provided no one else held a trademark on the term. Trademarks expire if they are not exercised and enforced.
To give you an example, take Captain Marvel. In the 1940′s Fawcett held a trademark on a comic book with the title “Captain Marvel”. After Fawcett went out of business, the trademark eventually lapsed. However the copyright on the character “Captain Marvel” did not lapse, and in the 1960′s DC Comics aquired the character’s copyright. At the same time, Marvel Comics saw an oppurtunity to create a character that used their company’s name and tweak the “Distinguished Competition”‘s nose a bit at the same time: Stan Lee created “Captain Mar-Vell” aka “Captain Marvel” and Marvel acquired a trademark on comic books with the title “Captain Marvel”.
Ever since then, so long as Marvel publishes a title called “Captain Marvel” every few years, they maintain their trademark and DC can’t publish a book titled “Captain Marvel”. In the ensuing decades, Marvel has had seven characters named “Captain Marvel”: Mar-Vell, Monica Rambeau, Geni-Vell, Phyla-Vell, that Skrull guy, Noh-Varr and now Carol Danvers, all to keep the trademark going. Last year DC threw in the towel, and the “Hero-Formerly-Known-As-Captain-Marvel” is now officially called “Shazam!” (with exclamation point). Games Workshop is pulling the same schtick, but it is perfectly in keeping with intellectual property law.
You’re comparing apples and oranges. “Captain Marvel” is an individual’s name. “Space marine” is simply two commonly used words, an adjective and a noun, placed in sequence. It’s a marine that works in space. This has to do with distinctiveness of the term to be trademarked, and is very important in trademark law. If a term is too generic you can’t even trademark it. It’s like attempting to trademark “Salt”.
Imagine a game that had a bunch of mooks collectively called “tough guys”. Could you reasonably trademark such a term? No, “merely descriptive” terms cannot be registered for trademarks.
If you name your product “Tough Guys” then you probably could register that, but you could only enforce it in cases where the products are competing for your market by attempting to co-opt your brand. For example, Maytag owns the trademark “Whisper Quiet”, however makers of other products may describe their goods as being “whisper quiet” so long as these competitors are not using the phrase as a trademark.
The question is whether “space marine” is sufficiently distinct to be trademarked (probably, though on the low end of the distinctiveness scale), and whether the book title was a case of infringement (probably not, as the term was apparently only meant descriptively, and not as an attempt to co-opt popularity from the brand name).
So did Games Workshop do anything wrong by trying to trademark it? Not really. Did they do something wrong by attempting to enforce that trademark in this case? Clearly they did from a PR standpoint, and probably from a legal standpoint as well. From what I understand they used a DMCA complaint to do this, which legally does not apply in the case of trademark disputes.
I’m no expert in the legal area though, so I’m open to correction.
That would be fine…. but games workshop doesn’t own the term space marine, nor were they the ones to come up with it. This is like Toyota suing General Motors for calling their cars “Cadillacs”.
I think we would have to disagree on the meaning of “wrong.”
Have they done anything illegal? Probably not. Morally and ethically though, in trying to lay claim ownership of a common term, they have done something wrong.
All I’m gonna say is the Tor Network is mighty useful for making lawyers and anal-retentive corporatists gnash their teeth in fury.
Here’s how it works in US law: GW can hold the trademark as it applies to tabletop roleplaying games, as long as it has secondary meaning associated with GW in that context and is not generic. They can’t hold the trademark with respect to anything outside markets that are logical extensions of the brand or in markets where there is no secondary meaning. Their trademark can also be vitiated, or genericized, if it loses that secondary meaning and becomes common vernacular.
In other words, he has every right to publish literature involving the concept of “Space Marines” and that has the phrase in the title, as long as he isn’t using it for a commercial purpose within the 40K context. The lawyer he’s talking to is dead wrong and should honestly be censured for barratry.
Herein lies the interesting part.
GW is a British company… Is anyone here an expert on international law?
For the record, Starship Trooperds did not have Space Marines. Heinlein wrote otehr stories that did, but nto Starship Troopers.
Correct. Starship Troopers had “Mobile Infantry”, individual Mobile Infantrymen were commonly called “Troopers”. And they wore powered armour. That idea was probably based on a /single/ suit of powered armour that E.E. “Doc” Smith used in a Lensman story; Heinlein was one of the first (if not the first) authors to grasp the idea of an entire army of soldiers who are all equipped with powered armour.
And Lucas tried to trademark Nazi …
Not all trademarks / copyrights are enforceable …
But you can FILE for it … and waste lots of money in court with it.
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