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In the future, all Space Marines will be Games Workshop
February 7, 2013 11:13 PM   Subscribe

Last December Amazon blocked sales of the Ebook Spots the Space Marine by author M.C.A. Hogarth after a notice from gaming industry powerhouse Games Workshop that they had trademarked the phrase "Space Marine" and that Hogarth, and anyone else who uses it, is infringing. GW brought this complaint based on "Class 16" of their European tradmark.

In GW's tabletop far-future wargame Warhammer 40,000 (a.k.a. 40K), the Adeptes Astartes (a.k.a. the "Space Marines") are genetically-enhanced 8-foot-tall transhuman warrior monks in power-armor. Painting the figures for one's tabletop army is an integral part of the hobby, as GW figures come unpainted. 40K has a huge following worldwide, with tournament play going on at gaming conventions.

The Space Marines are the flagship army of GW's 40K game, and also of its corporate identity. Games Workshop HQ features a statue of a Space Marine out front and an Imperial Aquila over the entrance. GW publishes novels set in the 40K universe under the Black Library imprint.

According to Hogarth:
In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entrée into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term “space marine” in all formats.
The larger science fiction community, after hearing about the takedown notice, has rallied to Hogarth's cause, pointing out that the idea of "Space Marines" is a rather generic term that has been around in SF literature since the early 20th century, including authors like EE "Doc" Smith and Robert Heinlein's 1939 short story Misfit. According to TV Tropes entry on Space Marines:
Space Marines first turn up in the short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" by Bob Olsen in Amazing Stories Volume 7, Number 8, of November 1932, and a later followup, 1936's "The Space Marines and the Slavers." The trope, however, fully rose to prominence with the use of the term on the wildly popular Lensman Series beginning in 1934. In 1959, Starship Troopers codified the trope, popularizing the emblematic Power Armor and the array of exotic weaponry they wield. Warhammer 40000 is notable for taking these aspects to a peak, and also for owning a registered trademark on the name "Space Marine." This is because large-scale game Adeptus Titanicus had an expansion called Space Marine which was later taken as the title for the re-release of the entire game.
Author Cory Doctorow pointed out that Amazon legally didn't have to comply with GW's takedown request. As of Wednesday Hogarth reports that The Electronic Frontier Foundation have been in contact, and many hope somebody will take up her cause pro bono as she has made it clear GW has much deeper pockets to pay lawyers than she does. GW also in recent years filed a lawsuit against Chapterhouse Studios, makers of resin models and conversion bits that GW says look a whole lot like their trademarked products.

While Amazon has blocked sales of the Ebook, it can still be purchased here. Amazon still carries the paperback edition for sale.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (77 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The thought that the Games Workshop I grew up with in the early 90s would later sue somebody for ripping off an idea is hard to wrap my mind around.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 11:29 PM on February 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


I can't wait until they sue real space marines. And then who will defend us from the Klvukikox?
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:32 PM on February 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


But does their trademark cover SPEHS MEHREEENS?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 PM on February 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Booo! I like Games Workshop games.

In other unrelated news, I find it handy sometimes to make little cardboard men that can stand up for tabletop games. I wrote a little Windows application that helps you do it. CounterMaker. You could conceivably use this to help you to play games involving, say, Space Hussars or Space Bombadiers.
posted by alasdair at 11:38 PM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Hamms Bear: The thought that the Games Workshop I grew up with in the early 90s would later sue somebody for ripping off an idea is hard to wrap my mind around.

They've been horrible, absolutely horrible, for as long as I can remember, certainly as long as I've been aware of them. I think of them as the Monsanto of gaming companies.
posted by Malor at 11:41 PM on February 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Seconding The Hamms Bear. More than once I've remarked here that GW used to be an awesome game company, before they decided to chase their miniatures games to the exclusion of all else.
posted by JHarris at 11:49 PM on February 7, 2013


(I'm sure Hogshead will be around eventually to remind me that they're tons more profitable now. No matter; frequently the most profitable companies are the least interesting.)
posted by JHarris at 11:50 PM on February 7, 2013


In the 80's or 90's Games Workshop trademarked "wargame hobby" (or some version thereof) and were leaning on people using the generic term "wargame". Here's a more recent comment on same. They'd be the Monsanto of gaming companies if Monsanto declared that "seed", "farmer" and "agriculture" were their intellectual properties.

In fact, given the whole "Gene-Seed" thing, I'm kind of surprised Games Workshop hasn't gone after Monsanto already.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:51 PM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only intellectual property war.
posted by lantius at 11:53 PM on February 7, 2013 [29 favorites]


I don't know why GW lets Blizzard rip off their IP wholesale and then goes after nobodies like this.
posted by empath at 12:01 AM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Empath - because GW is thinking that "nobodies like this" usually roll over and can't afford to lawyer up. I'm guessing Activision/Blizzard is making at least an order of magnitude more income that GW. A lawsuit with them would be a costly endeavour.
posted by thecjm at 12:09 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


So has anyone here read this? Is the book worth buying outside of protest reasons, cause the reviews do seem intriguing....

A 32-year-old mother is called up from the reserves and sent to supposedly in-the-middle-of-nowhere depot, which just happens to turn out to be practically on top of a crab breeding facility. I don’t know even how to describe this book. This is a family, a Marine FAMILY, in space fighting crab-like aliens that look eerily like their allies, the violinists. It’s a roller coaster, but it doesn’t feel like one; it’s that smooth and well-put-together.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:13 AM on February 8, 2013


empath: And— although trademarks and patents are rather different— they probably don't want to risk going after someone who has the resources to do a NewEgg and chop their income stream off entirely.
posted by hattifattener at 12:15 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not just that Blizzard is making a lot more money than Games Workshop, it's that they don't have firm legal ground to stand on for that and they know it. Everything Warhammer and Warhammer 40K is, they got from somewhere else. And that's the whole point.

W40K sites, armies and units are able to be relateable to players because they're generic archetypes. If they had gone out and tried to create armies whole-cloth, they'd have to be a lot more individually interesting, and their appeal would be limited to that subset of their audience that that appealed to. Discovering appeal is always difficult and requires investment from the audience; adapting something pre-existing is easier to get into, because the audience already has opinions on various aspects of Heinlein, Aliens, demons, the Catholic Church, frat boys, the military, elves, and so forth. If Blizzard copied anything from Games Workshop, it's completely irrelevant because GW copied everything in W40K from other sources.

But while Blizzard is backed up by a huge, wealthy corporation, small players don't have nearly so much lucre to call upon. This is akin to a SLAAP suit, where the threat of incurring the vast expense of legal action is intended to keep others in line.

(And how depressing is it that there's a name for it, "SLAAP suit?")
posted by JHarris at 12:26 AM on February 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only intellectual property war.

The Emperor's husk rots on the golden throne as his mind fights "pirates" in the warp.

Suffer not the alien, the infringer, the heretic.
posted by yonega at 12:35 AM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kid Charlemagne: They'd be the Monsanto of gaming companies if Monsanto declared that "seed", "farmer" and "agriculture" were their intellectual properties.

Monsanto leans on farmers who don't buy their seeds, who accidentally end up using patented Monsanto genes, because the pollen blew into their natural crops.

GW leans on writers who don't infringe their properties, because they assert the public domain has been pollinated by their usage of the term 'Space Marine'.

They're incredibly similar.
posted by Malor at 12:37 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This bullshit, patent trolls, infinite copyright, blah blah blah, has got to stop at some point, doesn't it?
posted by maxwelton at 12:52 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually Games Workshop has gone after Blizzard for infringement. The reason you don't know about it is because the first act of grown-ups on receiving a Cease and Desist notice is not to go screaming to the internet.
posted by Hogshead at 12:55 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why GW lets Blizzard rip off their IP wholesale and then goes after nobodies like this.

I don't know about you but I never pick fights with people bigger than me. Or indeed people who are the same size. Or smaller people. Just, y'know, the wheelchair-bound, etc.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 1:02 AM on February 8, 2013


As the author makes it clear in the first line of her blogpost, the issue is not that her book has space marines in it, it's the fact that she called it 'Spots the Space Marine'.

"In mid-December, Games Workshop told Amazon that I’d infringed on the trademark they’ve claimed for the term “space marine” by titling my original fiction novel Spots the Space Marine."

Also she uses the word 'entrée' where she means 'entry', which tells me all I need to know about her writing.
posted by Hogshead at 1:08 AM on February 8, 2013


maxwelton: This bullshit, patent trolls, infinite copyright, blah blah blah, has got to stop at some point, doesn't it?

Why would it?
posted by Malor at 1:13 AM on February 8, 2013


Suppose they'll have to call them hulklings now.

Hogshead: entree into [a] market is a bit of a business cliche but it is a colloquial phrasing and more jargon than pretense. As she is discussing a business situation it is IMO appropriate.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


jharris, while I certainly dont want to defend GWs legal counsels actions in this case, whenever anyone says GW are entirely derivative I know they either have no idea what they are talking about or have some inherent bias against the company. its a joke to say they havent massively developed their IP in a distinct fashion and deserve to protect it. GW Space Marines are like nothing else, and chapterhouse deserve to lose. This case i'd quite agree is a stretch though, space marines obviusly are more generic.
posted by wilful at 2:03 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually Games Workshop has gone after Blizzard for infringement. The reason you don't know about it is because the first act of grown-ups on receiving a Cease and Desist notice is not to go screaming to the internet.

If by "grownups" you mean "people with deep enough pockets to hire high-end lawyers", perhaps. The other five nines of us, on the other hand...
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:03 AM on February 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


Some guy called Jon Skazi has something to say too.

Also, I'm going to self link myself because snark is all I have.
posted by Mezentian at 2:32 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, how has 3d printing not put them out of business?
posted by runcibleshaw at 2:36 AM on February 8, 2013


So, how has 3d printing not put them out of business?

For the same reason that the existence of photocopiers didn't put Wizards of Coast out of business.
posted by empath at 2:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty: I'm pretty sure that the discussion could have gone something like this:

GW legal: The title of your ebook infringes on our trademark.
Author: So if I change the title of the ebook to 'Spot of the Star Marines' I'm good?
GW legal: Yes.
Author: Cool.

But no, here we are.
posted by Hogshead at 2:56 AM on February 8, 2013


Hogshead: "Also she uses the word 'entrée' where she means 'entry', which tells me all I need to know about her writing."
The quality of her writing does not affect the core of the matter, namely that Games Workshop have been IP bullies for as long as I remember. They have top quality products, but unfortunately they also have a loathsome legal department. See e.g. Games Workshop declares war on best customers. Again.

I guess the reason GW consistently don't care about bad publicity is that their core customers are 12-year-old boys. Those are being renewed each year.
Hogshead: "Author: So if I change the title of the ebook to 'Spot of the Star Marines' I'm good?"
I'm repulsed by your patronizing, apologist stance and I'm sorry I ever paid money for the products produced by your company.
posted by brokkr at 3:08 AM on February 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow, so the author's responsibility is to simply fold? That's an... interesting position.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:17 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Also Hogshead hasn't owned Hogshead games in years, settle down.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:19 AM on February 8, 2013


brokkr, let's not be hasty. Hogshead is a good guy, he's made great things, and while I disagree with him on this issue, if you look hard enough you can find an excuse to hate anyone. Life is too short for that. Instead, let's agree to continue to argue in good faith, and hope someday for a resolution.

jharris, while I certainly dont want to defend GWs legal counsels actions in this case, whenever anyone says GW are entirely derivative I know they either have no idea what they are talking about or have some inherent bias against the company.

1. Well, "entirely derivative" applies to everything created by man, without exception, but I recognize that's not useful to this case. Games Workshop has created things that fulfill the commonly-accepted definition of novelty, but those aren't the things that other companies intrude upon. Starcraft doesn't have an ageless Emperor of mankind locked in eternal statis in his last moment of life that wards over the passage of Imperium spaceships in the Warp from demonic influence. That would be obviously infringing. But it does have things that look like Space Marines, and that's just the kind of thing GW would attack them for if Activision didn't have the same general level of legal power as they have.

2. From where would "inherent bias" even arise? Hating Games Workshop just because it's Games Workshop? Does that not subconsciously establish the company as an Important Thing? How does that even get started? Anyway, despite appearances, these attitudes don't appear without a root cause.

People don't hate things without a reason, whether the thing hated is Microsoft or liberals. The question is, is it a good reason? Where did the reason arise from? Where do these people who supposedly have it out for Games Workshop get their attitudes? Mere jealousy, or is there something substantial here?
posted by JHarris at 3:27 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So... The author's name is Hogarth? I can't be the only one wanting to see how quickly the Iron Giant would crush a Titan, right?
posted by Ghidorah at 3:40 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reasons why I might tend to think Games Workshop sucks:
This is the company that sues people who try to sell their products online, because they feel that they're the only ones with the right to use a shopping cart (You can check out The War Store [thewarstore.com] for a brief explanation of this)

... that requires gaming stores that want to stock them give them a percentage of their store in free shelf space and make huge orders just to order anything at all...

...that banned exports to Australia because due to exchange rate shenanigans, it is literally cheaper to buy their product in the UK and pay shipping to Aus/NZ than to buy it from Games Workshop.


Comment from Slashdot on the same topic should anyone wish to debunk it.

I don't have the time to chase up these links, but there are all stories going back several years I've heard before.
posted by Mezentian at 3:42 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


JHarris: "Hogshead is a good guy"
Yes, obviously. He is basically saying that because Hogarth, whom he also casually dismisses as not-adult, is a bad writer (an opinion based on a misunderstanding of business jargon, apparently), she should just do as GW says. All flowers and unicorns. I can't even start to disagree with that, it's so prejudiced to be flat out impossible to engage with.

Also, I wish some of these people would contact GW and tell them what it means to be a Space Marine: List of US Marine Corps astronauts.
posted by brokkr at 3:44 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


It would appear that the Kindle version is once again available:
Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler [Kindle Edition]

Discovered from the comments in the J Scalzi link above.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 3:57 AM on February 8, 2013


The attitude that Hogshead is taking is not just naive, but also dangerous. It's the same mentality that allows patent trolling to exist as a business model, and comes from the same flawed logic that anyone making an assertion has at least some right to make that assertion. That's not always true, and the fact that things like this keep happening is the evidence that our system is flawed.

If we don't fight it, the future belongs only to extortionists.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:02 AM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


*trademarks "Space Extortionist"*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


*trademarks "Space Extortionist"*

IT IS BETTER TO EXTORT FOR THE EMPEROR THAN TO WORK FOR YOURSELF
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 AM on February 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not to mention that there's prior art for "Star Marine", so maybe someone else already has that trademarked, as well. Possibly not even the person who originally came up with it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:55 AM on February 8, 2013


Daang.

I was gonna eventually pick up some 40k books. I like a lot of their material. Now I'm... probably not.
posted by NoraReed at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2013


Games Workshop has been The Worst since the 1990s.
Big company tactics, paddling pool market.

I've never worked out why. But they are listed in the LSE now. Apparently.

If you ant to 40K it: eBay it. Unless they have tried to kill the secondary market by serving notices on people who use their TM marks on eBay.

Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson must be rolling in their huge money bins of cash, while being disgusted at the firm they created.
posted by Mezentian at 5:23 AM on February 8, 2013


I was gonna eventually pick up some 40k books. I like a lot of their material. Now I'm... probably not.

If your local Goodwill and used bookstores are anything like mine, no worries!


Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson must be rolling in their huge money bins of cash, while being disgusted at the firm they created.

At least Fighting Fantasy is pretty cool.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:25 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mezentian: ... Steve Jackson...

Wait... what? Not... *wikipedias*

Oh. Different Steve Jackson. Well, that's a little confusing. One might even now be surprised that from-the-UK-founder-of-Games-Workshop-in-1975 Steve Jackson hasn't sued from-the-US-founder-of-Steve-Jackson-Games-in-1980 Steve Jackson for using his name in an OBVIOUSLY confusing way.
posted by hanov3r at 5:45 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing that I never understood about GW and GW fandom is the weird pseudo-masochistic relationship between the two. GW excels at spitting on its fanbase and neutering their every effort at promotion, yet those same fans keep handing them huge amounts of cash without pause.

I remember back in the days where I actually played WH40k, there was a great site on the net that had compiled all the extra rules, tables, and other info for the game that GW had put out over the years in various magazine articles. For those who don't know, GW is constantly "updating" the game with new units, new rules, and rule modifications that are only published in trade magazines (mostly White Dwarf). So it can be very frustrating when, for example, you play against another player who swears that in WD#382 the rules for Grenades was changed to this way but you never read that issue and you still play it that way. So this website was a great resource that ensured all fans of the game could refer to the latest version of the rules. The website also featured handy tables, and a full index list for the cumbersome WH40k rules (the rulebook had the time had no index, it's true).

So, given all the effort that the site admins had put into promoting the game you'd think they would get some sort of reward? AH! All they got was a cease and desist order and the website was soon neutered down to nothing. And there were many examples like that!

All in all, GW's business model is completely baffling to me. And the fact that it works, it even moreso.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:54 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm actually kind of disappointed because "Spots the Space Marine" should be about an adorable puppy who is drafted to fight in a Heinleinian (or Scalziesque!) space marine force and wins the day by being adorable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:15 AM on February 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The reason you don't know about it is because the first act of grown-ups on receiving a Cease and Desist notice is not to go screaming to the internet.

Actually, the first act of grownups is so to go screaming to the internet. As is obvious to anybody who doesn't have ulterior motives to believe otherwise, your best defence against IP bullies is to seek publicity. As a regular person it's impossible to win by lawyering up yourself, but going public gains you allies.

In this case, it has already gotten the attention of the EFF, various sf bigwigs and other parties who can help with the lawyering up or the shaming of Games Workshop into backing down.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:25 AM on February 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


In fact, given the whole "Gene-Seed" thing, I'm kind of surprised Games Workshop hasn't gone after Monsanto already.

Particularly since they've got these. Monsanto wouldn't stand a chance.
posted by ninebelow at 6:27 AM on February 8, 2013


Monsanto leans on farmers who don't buy their seeds, who accidentally end up using patented Monsanto genes, because the pollen blew into their natural crops.

I'm not really arguing pro-Monsanto here, but when they go after people who exclusively produce heirloom radishes and cucumbers (which I don't believe Monsanto has done anything with), call me, because I'll happily accept that that is analogous to leaning on small UK hobby shops infringing on their trademark by selling Napoleonic Wars and WWII miniatures.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:31 AM on February 8, 2013


Mezentian: "Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson must be rolling in their huge money bins of cash"

I can't speak for Steve, but Ian has told me he hasn't owned shares in Games Workshop since he sold his stake in the company in the late 80s.
posted by Hogshead at 6:52 AM on February 8, 2013


the first act of grown-ups

Wouldn't the first act of the truly enlightened be to not presume to know how someone else should handle their own situation? I'd think those who have achieved true Zen Bliss might not speak at all, having realized all our crises are really transient. I guess what I'm saying is anyone commenting on anything on the Internet has problems.
posted by yerfatma at 6:52 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


More proof that the lunatics are running the asylum.
Tear it down I say.
posted by adamvasco at 6:53 AM on February 8, 2013


Also she uses the word 'entrée' where she means 'entry', which tells me all I need to know about her writing.

Ahem.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:54 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hogarth's Stormfront is only $2.09 in Amazon's kindle edition at the moment, $4 less than spot the space marine. Get it before the white brotherhood get into ebooks and move to protect their trademark.
posted by biffa at 6:55 AM on February 8, 2013


I'm not really arguing pro-Monsanto here, but when they go after people....

What I'm trying to say, and which you're getting bizarrely specific and strange about, is that GW is the most evil company in gaming, just like Monsanto is the most evil company in agriculture. (and a number of related areas.)

It would be like calling them the Yugo of gaming, if their games were terrible. Instead, they're the Monsanto, because they are evil litigious bastards.
posted by Malor at 7:23 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sure smells of dickishness, but could this perhaps be an example of suing to defend trademark because if you don't, it's pretty much open season? Not defending GW here, but maybe this action is more "because we have to" rather than out of malice?
posted by xedrik at 7:27 AM on February 8, 2013


xedrik, GW's past legal actions regarding their IP have used up any reasonable doubt they might at one point have been owed.
posted by brokkr at 7:34 AM on February 8, 2013


The thing that I never understood about GW and GW fandom is the weird pseudo-masochistic relationship between the two...GW is constantly "updating" the game with new units, new rules, and rule modifications that are only published in trade magazines (mostly White Dwarf).

The former is answered by the latter; there's a certain class of gamer (more likely to be the GM) who liked this sort of set-up because they have all the books and therefore the power. I knew a GM like that, who would set up games under this system but would insist on using a table or subset of rules from that system supposedly because it was better, but really (I think) because he was the only one to have all the books. He ended up having to lug around so many books that he'd have to ask for help carrying them; he was out of shape even by stereotypical gamer standards.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:17 AM on February 8, 2013


I looked at the US trademark and saw that it only covered "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith." As Hogarth indicated, GW feels that publishing an e-book gives them the right to protect their trademark of "space marine" in other goods and services.

Can someone explain how common law works and how it applies in this case?

I am a GW fan, and like their miniatures. It's a nice (albeit expensive) hobby and a bit meditative when I get to sit at my desk for an hour or two. I also like some of the literature such as Gaunt's Ghosts.

It saddens me, and frankly I am embarrassed, whenever I see GW throw its weight around like this.

I noticed both paperback and Kindle versions of Spots the Space Marine were back on Amazon. I bought it.
posted by CancerMan at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2013


I noticed both paperback and Kindle versions of Spots the Space Marine were back on Amazon. I bought it.

Maybe GW is expanding into selling its goodwill for marketing!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 AM on February 8, 2013


GW is a horrible, horrible company.

That said, still glad I bought Space Hulk (3rd Edition)

But I'm not a minis gamer, so whatever. Their spun off FFG stuff, (Warhammer Invasion, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Chaos in the Old World), are good games and I do buy those. Might buy Blood Bowl if it gets redone. But they're still evil.
posted by Windopaene at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2013


In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only intellectual property war.

And like clockwork, someone always comes up with a one-liner that makes me think "DANG, wish I'd thought of that as the FPP title".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does prior art even apply to trademark? I know if GW were claiming a patent on the concept of "space marines" it would get shot down pretty fast, but can they trademarked a combination of words even if that combination of words has been in usage for decades?
posted by thecjm at 10:49 AM on February 8, 2013


Trademark law recognizes that a mark is used in a particular area of commerce. "Space Marine" is a common term in SF novels, obviously (obviously to us, at least); but I'm pretty sure that if I wanted to trademark "Space Marine™" for nonfouling bottom paint or a new variety of flowers I'd bred, I could. The basic question is whether a buyer would see Hogarth's book and confuse it with GW's products (or see GW's products and think they were related to Hogarth's book).
posted by hattifattener at 11:14 AM on February 8, 2013


Space Marina: In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only tourism.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:27 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Space Marinara: in the grim pasta of the far future, there is only tomato and garlic.
posted by hattifattener at 11:43 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


...can they trademarked a combination of words even if that combination of words has been in usage for decades?

Not in theory; that's why trademark holders get twitchy when you use brand names in a generic fashion (like band-aid or kleenex.) Trademarks are *supposed* to protect the consumer from fraud, essentially. If I buy a Pepsi, I'm assuming it was produced by Pepsi, and not Bob.

Conversely, a trademark should never be granted for a generic term, which is why you shouldn't ever see Soda brand soda.

What's odd here is that they're trying to claim a common law trademark, which only exists on the state level in the US, and is used to prevent, say, two Joe's Taverns from operating in the same city, without the first having to have claimed a trademark. IIUC (IANAL), it's often a defense against another entity claiming that trademark.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Space Marianas: In the grim void of the future, there is a void in the void that is even voidier - it has twice as much nothing as the rest of the nothing - and it goes on for (∞-1) miles.
posted by Mister_A at 12:23 PM on February 8, 2013


Oh fuck yeah, delicious delicious schadenfreude...

Yes, look even more like douchebags, Games Workshop, I feed upon your ridiculousness like delicious candy. The day you fall upon your obviously-compensating-for-something sword will be a day I celebrate.

(Yes, even 10 years after the fact, I still have rage...)
posted by Katemonkey at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, if a mark is “weak,” it most likely is descriptive and others are already using it to describe their goods or services, making it difficult and costly to try to police and protect. Weak marks should be avoided; they simply do not have the same legal protections of a stronger and more distinctive mark....

Descriptive marks are words or designs (e.g., depiction of a television for “television repair services”) that describe the goods and/or services. Such marks are generally considered “weaker” and therefore more difficult to protect than fanciful and arbitrary marks.  If the USPTO determines that a mark is “merely descriptive,” then it is not registrable or protectable on the Principal Register unless it acquires distinctiveness-- generally through extensive use in commerce over a five-year period or longer.  Descriptive marks are considered “weak” until they have acquired distinctiveness....

Generic words are the weakest types of “marks” (and cannot even qualify as “marks” in the legal sense) and are never registrable or enforceable against third parties.  Because generic words are the common, everyday name for goods and services and everyone has the right to use such terms to refer to their goods and services, they are not protectable. Be aware that if you adopt a generic term to identify your goods or services, you will not be able to prevent others from using it to identify potentially competing products or services.
Protecting Your Trademark: Enhancing Your Rights through Federal Legislation published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and recommended by them as reading to do before attempting to register a mark.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


runcibleshaw writes "So, how has 3d printing not put them out of business?"

Is there any 3d printing with the fine detail of modern 40K plastics? For less than the price of 10,000 points?
posted by Mitheral at 5:22 PM on February 8, 2013


Warhammer at War: How Home 3D Printers Are Disrupting Miniature Gaming
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:27 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Space Macarena: In the grim future of rumba, there is only— eeeey, Macarena
posted by hattifattener at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2013


If this is the best printers can do right now GW is still safe for a while until quality improves.
posted by Mitheral at 5:55 PM on February 8, 2013


Warhammer at War: How Home 3D Printers Are Disrupting Miniature Gaming

I think the analysis in that article is a bit off. Sculpture certainly is protected by copyright. That patent protection is more often used in litigation about objects probably comes down to the fact that there are probably more engineers than sculptors, and the companies that employ engineers have been filing patents on everything and the kitchen sink, (along with the coffee maker, the water cooler, and the mini-fridge where the engineer stored his lunch.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:43 PM on February 8, 2013


Sculpture certainly is protected by copyright.

Stop dressing like me.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:51 PM on February 8, 2013


If this is the best printers can do right now GW is still safe for a while until quality improves.

Considering the speed with which 3D printing has developed over the past few years I'd be worried if I were them.
posted by Mezentian at 11:52 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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