February 7, 2013

Games Workshop Epic Fail

Games Workshop EPIC FAIL in punishing author for using a non-protected term of Space Marines in her writing
You may have already heard about this....I did yesterday, but I let this stew a bit before deciding to make a blog post on the subject.  There is a fair amount of asshattery to go around and I wasn't quite sure where to place the major blame.

In the end I have to just go with the obvious, but I'll note the 1st & 2nd runners-up.

Last month an independent Science Fiction writer by the name of M.C.A. Hogarth got a "nice" little notice from Amazon that they've stopped selling her e-book Spots the Space Marine because Games Workshop make a trademark infringement complaint over the word "Space Marine".

I'm not making this up.  You can read her blog post here and if you check her Amazon store, there is no mention of a work titled, Spots the Space Marine.  Like M.C.A. Hogarth did, I checked the US Patents & Trademark Office.  I'm a bit familiar with this government entity because of a course on Copyright I took last semester.

Let's see....Space Marine.....hmmmm....I cannot get a search result off of "Space Marine"

Sorry, no results found for '"Space Marine"'. Try entering fewer or broader query terms

I guess I'll have to go straight to the trademark registration search, which was easy enough:
IC 028. US 022. G & S: 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. FIRST USE: 19870900. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19871000

Yep....no mention of books.  I wonder why...oh wait, could it be because the concept of a "Space Marine" has been around for decades before Games Workshop existed?  The first thing I came up with was  Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but according to Wikipedia the first known use was in November 1932's Amazing Stories.

The way I see it there are three asshat entities involved in this fiasco:

  1. Games Workshop for trying to trademark Space Marines.  Seriously?  I get that your particular rendition of Warhammer 40K needs some protection, but "Space Marine" is too broad.  Looking at the trademark......trains?  Really?  Is there a Space Marine train out there somewhere I've never seen?  Don't these guys have lawyers that should advise them?
  2. The US Trademark & Patent Office.  Isn't there a requirement for some evidence to support the need for a trademark?  Unless there is a Space Marine Train coming into production, why would a Space Marine Train need to be trademarked?
  3. Amazon.  Do you guys just do whatever a manufacturer asks or is there someone actually looking at these requests?  I'm just saying if someone comes to me and says, "This person is infringing on my trademark by doing X" I'd like to know that the person is actually doing X, not Y which is not even part of the trademark protection.
Hmm.....I just found out that "asshat" is not a trademarked term.  I wish I had the funds to secure that trademark and put the name of Games Workshop in the covered area terms.

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