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Things... that deserve a cease and desist order
October 2, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Terrible Things is a party-style board game that recently finished a successful Kickstarter campaign. Yesterday Quinn & Sherry, the publishers of Things..., sent a cease and desist order to the makers of Terrible Things demanding that the game's title be changed.

"Is your position that any board game published with "Things" in the title infringes on Quinn & Sherry's trademark?"
Their answer was a simple "Yes."

Quinn & Sherry have received some feedback via the front page of their website.

They have since released a statement on their Facebook page.
posted by Midnight Rambler (98 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's like two dozen fundamental ways the legal and political systems in the US fail us that never seem to get fixed.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's a reasonable request. My first thought, given that The Game of Things is fairly well-known and established at this point, would be, hearing the title Terrible Things, that it was some kind of brand extension for the original game and not a separate game.

They don't have to honor the C&D if they don't want to. But it's the first step to a lawsuit. And this is how disagreements are handled. If both publishers think they're right, then we have a court to decide.

I think it's early enough that the game currently called Terrible Things could easily find a name that is more unique to them.
posted by inturnaround at 1:35 PM on October 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


From the Q&S FB statement:
The creators [of Terrible Things] have made it clear that they think this claim is ridiculous as there are other games on the market that use the word THINGS in their title but have agreed to change the title to avoid a lawsuit. We are aware of all these other games and none of them are "funny" "party games". We don't wish this company any harm and knew that doing this now was the right thing to do as they have not spent any money on production.
I'm on Q&S's side here. The idea that another game with a very similar title might take away from their business (now or in the future) makes sense. You can see spin-off versions of any of the big games out there -- who hasn't seen the versions of Monopoly customized to particular cities or colleges or whatever? It's easy to see how someone might think that Terrible Things is a spin-off of Things.
posted by Etrigan at 1:39 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm on the fence with this but Q&S actually handled this pretty ethically, in my opinion. They didn't screw them during their kickstarter but also didn't wait until production was underway, and both sides' arguments are pretty colorable. This is how it's supposed to work.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Change name to Terrible...Stuff? Thangs? Objects? Whatevers?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:45 PM on October 2, 2013


Yeah, it's like when any ginormous company C&D's some little nobody for using their name/likeness/whatever. They are legally obligated to defend (or attempt to) their trademark, or else it can be considered to be up for grabs. (IANAL, and I'm simplifying it a bit, but that's how I understand it)
posted by Mr. Big Business at 1:45 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, you win. We'll go with our second choice: Terrible Candyland.
posted by hal9k at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [50 favorites]


It is tempting to always root for the underdog but in this case the creators of Terrible Things are on the wrong side of trademark law. If Q&S don't actively defend their trademark they risk losing it. It sucks, but that's business.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


enraged their investors by claiming that our "argument is absurd" even though it is based in US law


I gotta say, I'm not seeing the connection there.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, it's not like it's a good name anyway. How about a play on Othello, "Ohellno!"

Try it. I know, let's play "Ohellno!"

I demand a 10% commission on their kickstarter take for this name.

(No, I don't.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another: "Connect Four Up Your Ass"
posted by jquinby at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you choose a single common English word for your trademark, that's your right, but you can expect that your trademark rights will be construed much more narrowly than those of someone using a more unique name.
posted by tyllwin at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Gnip Fuck You
Hungry Hungry Douchebags
Jengoatse
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:50 PM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


I've never heard of The Game of Things before, and I keep up with gaming a bit. I've never seen it on a store shelf here in Brunswick, although it isn't really a gaming town. So, maybe that's a counter to the idea that people are going to naturally confuse these two things.
posted by JHarris at 1:50 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Charadgedies
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really think the single word things shouldn't be prosecutable as part of a trademark. As the collection of words together, GAME OF THINGS seems okay, but that single word is ludicrously overbroad. The same would go if Terrible Things, after getting a trademark, tried the same.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Chutes and Your Mom.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Game of Things? Wow, they're begging for a C&D from Mr. Martin and Company, aren't they?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


And anyway, isn't this just truth or dare for people who can't even think up any dares?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Things
posted by Kabanos at 2:00 PM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think Q&S have a defensible position here, but I also think their attorneys were too glib in their answer to the question of whether any board game with "things" in the title would be infringing. In this case, where "terrible" modifies "things" and that's all there is to the title, I can see the argument that someone might perceive it to be an extension of the game line. But I'm can also envision titles which include "things" in a way that wouldn't create that perception ("Ten Things I Hate About You", maybe).
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dreadful Doin's
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Appalling Activities
Inadvisable Initiatives
Vile Volitions
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really care one way or the other about this but I do have to say that trademarking is going to make our century look like we all couldn't spell our way out of a paper bag.
posted by srboisvert at 2:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


from FB comment:
The trademark on file is for "THINGS..." with ellipsis, but "Terrible Things" didn't have the ellipsis...The word "thing" is the posterchild for a generic term, which is why your trademark includes the ellipsis to distinguish it (just like you could trademark "game..." but not "game"). Pushing around someone else with the expectation that no game considered a "funny" "party game" subjectively or technically could use the word "thing" in a title is absdurd, litigious, and makes you look like a bully.
posted by anazgnos at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


It looks from their C&D letter that the trademark is on all-caps THINGS with ellipses. So even initial capping Terrible Things would differentiate "The Game of THINGS..." from "Terrible Things: The Party Game Where Everyone Loses." But they wouldn't even legally have to do that. The trademark includes elllipses, and the new game doesn't have ellipses. So they changed the name to avoid a lawsuit, probably not because they wouldn't win, but because as a kickstarter campaign they can't afford a lawsuit. The word "things" isn't trademarked. The specific treatment of the word is, and the new game doesn't use that treatment.
posted by headnsouth at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stupidity. I want the trademark on the words The and And.

Sentences that begin with these words will have to be approved by me.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The title Terrible Things makes me expect a rip-off of Cards Against Humanity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


now they have something else terrible to add to the game.
posted by TMezz at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2013


Crazy Shit.

"Hey guys, let's play Crazy Shit!"
posted by Kabanos at 2:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I think Q&S's case is pretty reasonable. Trademarks only apply to one specific area or type of product; it's not like they tried to trademark the word "things" in any context ever.

I mean, suppose that, shortly after John Carpenter's The Thing came out, someone made another monster movie and called it "The Terrible Thing". I'd find it at least reasonable to contest that.

Or, to take a more recent example from the movies: James Cameron's Avatar trademarked that name before the makers of The Last Airbender could trademark it, even though they were making a live-action adaptation of a TV series called Avatar: The Last Airbender, and owned the trademark for that for television shows.

But on top of that, adding an adjective to the title of a board game is a pretty well-established way of titling an expansion or modified edition (Cthulu Fluxx, Star Wars Monopoly, Scene It: Friends, etc.); it's perfectly reasonable to think that there could be some product confusion.
posted by tkfu at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2013


"Hey guys, let's play Crazy Shit!"

What followed meant that none of the participants could look one another in the eye for years after.
posted by JHarris at 2:39 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Profound and Lasting Regrets"
posted by Navelgazer at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Meh.

The Game of Things is one of those games like Pictionary that has no reason to exist in the first place. If you have a pen and paper and a brain, you already own it.

The other one is just truth or dare for people too lazy to think up their own dares. And also it just looks, well, terrible.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's most party games, Sys Rq. I've never understood the point of Cards Against Humanity myself. 1,000 Blank White Cards is cheaper, customizable for your group, requires more creativity, leaves you with a cumulative physical record of your games, and has fewer mentions of Glenn Beck.
posted by JHarris at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Game of Breaking Bad Things.

Oops....
posted by CrowGoat at 2:53 PM on October 2, 2013


trademarking is going to make our century look like we all couldn't spell our way out of a paper bag

This. Around here, it's going to make us look like we weren't able to spell our way in either Spanish, English or French even it it meant our lives.
posted by Iosephus at 2:54 PM on October 2, 2013


I've never understood the point of Cards Against Humanity myself. 1,000 Blank White Cards is cheaper

You can get a Creative Commons licensed PDF of the game on their website complete with instructions on the cheapest way to print and store it though, so everyone's a winner!
posted by Winnemac at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


How awesome would a John Carpenter's The Thing board game be?

Especially the special limited edition that comes in a Monopoly box.
posted by griphus at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


trademarking is going to make our century look like we all couldn't spell our way out of a paper bag

Not many people know this, but Geoffrey Chaucer was actually a really good speller. But this was prior to trademark reform, and all the correct spellings were trademarked so he couldn't use them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is a fan made print-and-play card game based on John Carpenter's The Thing.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and maybe the Game of Things people should be getting C&D's from the Game of Thrones people?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:06 PM on October 2, 2013


Sys Rq, go ahead and expect a C & D from octobersurprise
posted by trunk muffins at 3:11 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's such a thing as an enforced trademark that manufactures more ill-will than the business' goodwill that you're trying to protect.

For example, when I lived in Baltimore, the local restaurant, Cafe Hon, trademarked the word "Hon" and all its uses. Soon after, the owner of that restaurant C&Ded the organizer's of Hampden's Honfest. And the Honfest was renamed to Hampdenfest, but the whole thing generated a huge amount of ill will with other business owners in the area.

There was in fact so much momentum to the ill will that later Kitchen Nightmares showcased Cafe Hon and convinced the owner to drop the Trademark.

I hope the owners of Things... don't learn this same lesson the hard way. Sometimes trademarks are not worth it to defend. I certainly wouldn't have chosen a popular Kickstarter as a target. To me, the folks who back Kickstarters are likely to be pretty vocal about something like this.
posted by kalessin at 3:22 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chess Pain.
posted by mittens at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Game of Breaking Bad Things.

If we make it the Game of Breaking Bad Thrones, I think we could have an awesome mash up.
posted by nubs at 4:00 PM on October 2, 2013


This is terrible.
posted by Thing at 4:30 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Polyopoly?
posted by not_on_display at 5:01 PM on October 2, 2013


All concerned should be getting two different C&D letters from Tom Wham. He totally has prior art.
posted by jiawen at 5:24 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few benefits of CAH over a blank stack of cards:
- most people suck at coming up with cards for the game. Most of the results will be less fun to play than Dick Cheney after a spin or two through the deck.
- repeats are less fun. You need many hundreds of cards for the game to be fun. This is time consuming. And most people suck at making cards, so the quality is low.
- The time spent making cards isn't as much fun nor as carefree as the time spent playing.
posted by wotsac at 5:27 PM on October 2, 2013


And really, there are tons of other games with prior use of the word "things". It's pretty ridiculous to claim sole ownership of such a common word, especially when many, many other people have used it in the titles of boardgames before.
posted by jiawen at 5:29 PM on October 2, 2013


Hide and Go Fuck Yourself
posted by Navelgazer at 5:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Mano a manopoly
posted by zippy at 5:53 PM on October 2, 2013


Solitaire-you-a-new-one
Gin rheumy
Chesst
Connect-Floor
Acid ReFluxx
Dungeons and more dungeons
Operation: Insurance claims adjuster
Hungry Hungry Hitlers
posted by zippy at 5:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've been waiting and waiting for a good time to expess my happiness that The Awful Green Things From Outer Space was back in print, and I guess this is it.

(Oh, looking up, I see jlawen already did this. Well, I'm leaving it up anyway because when's my next chance going to be?)
posted by escabeche at 6:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Fish
Crazy Hates
Peen Uncle
posted by mittens at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


octobersurprise: "Game of Things? Wow, they're begging for a C&D from Mr. Martin and Company, aren't they?"

He's too busy pimping himself and his unfinished projects to get on the legal wagon.

(Yup. Still bitter.)
posted by Samizdata at 6:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


griphus: "How awesome would a John Carpenter's The Thing board game be?

Especially the special limited edition that comes in a Monopoly box.
"

I call the dog!
posted by Samizdata at 6:09 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


And really, there are tons of other games with prior use of the word "things".

Oddly enough, there's one in that list called "Ancient Terrible Things" which was also Kickstarted recently and has a planned release date of 2014. Will they also receive a cease-and-desist? Or is it okay because it's not a party game?
posted by RobotHero at 6:12 PM on October 2, 2013


RobotHero: "And really, there are tons of other games with prior use of the word "things".

Oddly enough, there's one in that list called "Ancient Terrible Things" which was also Kickstarted recently and has a planned release date of 2014. Will they also receive a cease-and-desist? Or is it okay because it's not a party game?
"

Not a wacky, whimsical party game.
posted by Samizdata at 6:14 PM on October 2, 2013


Speaking of trademark violation, Ancient Terrible Things is made by Pleasant Company Games. Pleasant Company is also the original name of the ancient and terrible American Girl corporation.
posted by mittens at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just Terrible
posted by byanyothername at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]



posted by byanyothername at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2013


Connect Fourskin
posted by hamandcheese at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The whacky docking game!"™
posted by zippy at 6:32 PM on October 2, 2013


Strategoiter
posted by hamandcheese at 6:35 PM on October 2, 2013


(Just a note to anyone who doesn't know Samizdata well:

People have GRAR triggers like PUA and MRA stuff, or mistreatment of those with alternate lifestyles. One of my GRAR triggers is GRRM doing anything but writing the book he said he would have finished over three years ago.)

Speaking of which - Dream Date: GRRM edition.
posted by Samizdata at 6:38 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


One
posted by Room 641-A at 6:41 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not a wacky, whimsical party game.

I was planning a sober, businesslike party game.

Mine should be okay, then?
posted by RobotHero at 6:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorrynotsorry!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Parch Easy: The game of thirst
posted by mittens at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Parshizzle
posted by zippy at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Narbacular Drop
posted by cyberscythe at 6:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Battleshit
Scat-ergories

(god i hope i'm done)
posted by mittens at 6:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Neo-Yahtzees
Mad As Hell-Libs
posted by jquinby at 7:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Settlers of Tibet
posted by zippy at 7:08 PM on October 2, 2013


Don't break the ass.
Poop-chutes and ladders.
(you sank my) buttleshit.
yaht-see I have this condition called witzelkackengesucht...

One
posted by Room 641-A at 9:41 PM on October 2 [+] [!]


duece-o
posted by mcrandello at 7:10 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whisk: Conquer the Kitchen
posted by zippy at 7:12 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Duominos
posted by Room 641-A at 7:28 PM on October 2, 2013


Ren & Stimpy had a few of these: Motonony, Purecheesy, Misery Date.
posted by JHarris at 7:40 PM on October 2, 2013


Pick-Up-Chicks
Rat-trap
posted by jquinby at 7:54 PM on October 2, 2013


Reminds me of when Intel, which had the trademark "Intel Inside" sued the folks teaching yoga in prison for using the phrase "Yoga Inside". Might of course makes right. Ask any lobbyist.
posted by jcworth at 7:58 PM on October 2, 2013


Glandyland
posted by zippy at 8:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


RobotHero: "Not a wacky, whimsical party game.

I was planning a sober, businesslike party game.

Mine should be okay, then?
"

Serious Things - An Intensely Serious Party Game Having Nothing To Do With Any Other Game With Things In Their Name?
posted by Samizdata at 9:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "Ren & Stimpy had a few of these: Motonony, Purecheesy, Misery Date."

No "Don't Whiz On The Electric Fence"? (With a bonus of complete Ren freakout!)
posted by Samizdata at 9:08 PM on October 2, 2013


Ew, No
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kerplotz
Buttgammon
Chlamydial Pursuit
Dildo (known in North America as Dil)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Dick-tack-dough
posted by zippy at 10:17 PM on October 2, 2013


Sys Rq earns a point for the Cluedo/Clue joke.
posted by JHarris at 10:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's most party games, Sys Rq. I've never understood the point of Cards Against Humanity myself. 1,000 Blank White Cards is cheaper, customizable for your group, requires more creativity, leaves you with a cumulative physical record of your games, and has fewer mentions of Glenn Beck.

The thing we've noticed playing it though, is that there are several downsides to making your own cards. One, it would be very easy to tell which people played what, either by writing or topic, the game removes that factor. Two, it could be devastating to friendships, since by playing the cards premade, you have that separator. You are just playing the hand dealt to you. The humor when playing comes from the unexpected that your friends may never have thought of. If they all made their own cards, you could easily start to wonder "Jesus, is my friend really that messed up/perverted/dangerous?" Which is something i've never thought while actually playing the game, even if after a while you start to guess what certain people will play.
posted by usagizero at 1:15 AM on October 3, 2013


Huh - I've always played 1KBWC in a Fluxx-like style. You had cards that did things, cards that you put in front of you (or someone else) that were worth positive or negative points (or, depending on the occasion, "+Efficiency, -Dignity" or the like), and cards that affected the rules of play. Nominally, whoever had the most points at the end of the game won. In practice, the goal was to have a good time, and secondarily have the cards you added survive the post-game culling to be in the new deck seed.
posted by NMcCoy at 2:27 AM on October 3, 2013


I mean, suppose that, shortly after John Carpenter's The Thing came out, someone made another monster movie and called it "The Terrible Thing". I'd find it at least reasonable to contest that.

You're confusing copyright and trademark. Artistic works can be copyrighted, but their titles cannot. Many books, for example, have identical titles. Trademarks are an entirely different (if you will excuse the expression) thing.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:38 AM on October 3, 2013


Game of Thingsies
Game of Thyngs
Game of Thongs
Game of Tings
posted by blue_beetle at 6:05 AM on October 3, 2013


Half-Thing
Thing Fortress 2
World of Thingcraft
Call of Thingy
posted by zippy at 7:59 AM on October 3, 2013


'Reminds me of when Intel, which had the trademark "Intel Inside" sued the folks teaching yoga in prison for using the phrase "Yoga Inside".'

Normally I'm against frivolous trademark use... But this seems pretty well grounded. Just the other day I was considering getting a faster processor for my machine, so I got myself arrested and started practicing Yoga in prison; only to find out that I had mistaken the two things.
posted by el io at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This doesn't seem well-grounded to me. But I, and (especially) others, have already expressed why that is, earlier in the thread. It doesn't feel like I'm advancing the conversation to say it again.

I wish there were better ways to summarize what's been said in a thread that reading through it, because that sometimes takes a long time.
posted by JHarris at 1:43 PM on October 3, 2013


(Yeah, my eyes skipped over the second half of the second paragraph that el io wrote. However, the general sentiment of the comment stands, in relation to other threads.)
posted by JHarris at 2:55 PM on October 3, 2013


We all did a LOL though. LOLZ.
posted by mippy at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2013


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