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Sci-Fi Books Your Rights Online

Games Workshop Bullies Author Over Use of the Words 'Space Marine' 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-marine-space-marine-space-marine dept.
New submitter jzoetewey writes "An author I know (MCA Hogarth) recently had her book Spots the Space Marine taken off Amazon because Games Workshop claimed it violated their trademark. The interesting thing? Their trademark doesn't include ebooks or novels. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the money to fight them. Plus, the idea of a space marine was around long before they were: '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. If they choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that’s been a part of its canon since its inception.' Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing also made this important point: 'Amazon didn't have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don't apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.'"
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Games Workshop Bullies Author Over Use of the Words 'Space Marine'

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  • by Mastacheata87 (1759916) <mastacheataNO@SPAMgulli.com> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:09PM (#42811787) Homepage

    This is about the eBook edition. The Paperback is obviously still available and it would seem to me that the trademark is not applicable there.

  • GW can suck it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:09PM (#42811791)

    The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932).

  • John Scalzi Blog (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:13PM (#42811843)

    John Scalzi (president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and author of Old Man's War) did a blog post on this also.
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/

  • by H0p313ss (811249) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:19PM (#42811921)

    Also relevant:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_marine#History [wikipedia.org]

    Read it quick before Games Workshop defaces the page!

    I was going to say exactly the same thing, so rather than being completely redundant, here's the first two paragraphs:

    The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932), a light-hearted work whose title is a play on the song "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines", and in which the protagonists were marines of the "Earth Republic Space Navy" on mission to rescue celebrity twins from aliens on Titan. Olsen published a novella sequel four years later, "The Space Marines and the Slavers" (Amazing Stories, Volume 10, Number 13, December 1936), featuring the same characters against Martian space pirates, and using a spaceship with active camouflage.[2]

    A more widely known early example was E. E. Smith's Lensman series. While the first story, Triplanetary and most later sequels (Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens and The Vortex Blaster) do not mention them, passing mentions of marines are made in Galactic Patrol[a] (Astounding Stories, September 1937–February 1938) and Gray Lensman[b][c] (Astounding Stories, October 1939–January 1940), and a more direct mention is made in First Lensman (1950): "Dronvire of Rigel Four in the lead, closely followed by Costigan, Northrop, Kinnison the Younger, and a platoon of armed and armored Space Marines!".

    1932, really... so 80 years later someone claims copyright on a science fiction concept almost as old as the phrase science fiction? Someone has balls.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:27PM (#42812049) Journal

    As evidenced by its popular use dating back for nearly a century as seen in this 1936 comic book [wikipedia.org], by itself, the term "space marine" is a descriptive and generic term that is ineligible for trademark protection, in much the same way that you cannot trademark the term "laptop computer" or "space ship". Whereas this trademark should never have been granted in the first place, the petitioner requests summary judgment in invalidating the errantly issued trademark.

    See the USPTO's appeals process page [uspto.gov] for information about how you can proceed with or without an attorney.

    Once the trademark has been invalidated, inform Amazon. They will restore your book, and the entire publishing and software world will rejoice in your space marines' victory over the egregiously evil trademark abuser.

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:47PM (#42812303)

    1932, really... so 80 years later someone claims copyright on a science fiction concept almost as old as the phrase science fiction? Someone has balls.

    They're claiming trademark, not copyright, which is why it's so odd that they used the DMCA for this. It's also strange that they would assert it against an author.

    Hopefully these links work, I'll provide the serial numbers in case.

    The trademark for "SPACE MARINE", serial number 74186534 [uspto.gov], issued in 1993, covers: 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. Another trademark for "SPACE MARINES", SN 75014487, filed in 1995 by someone else, but abandoned in 1997, did cover "series of science fiction books". It was abandoned in July 1997, then in Sept 1997 Games Workshop filed for "SPACE MARINE" again (SN 75010236 [uspto.gov]), which covered video computer games; computer software for playing games.

    So, they don't even own a trademark on the term for any books at all.

  • Re:John Scalzi Blog (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sperbels (1008585) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:59PM (#42812471)
    Thanks for the link. This will take you to the specific blog entry: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/02/06/space-marines-and-the-battle-of-tradem-ark/ [scalzi.com]
  • Re:Wrong headline (Score:3, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:06PM (#42812587) Homepage Journal

    Shouldn't it read: "Games Workshop commits perjury filing false DMCA take down request."?

    perjury is lying under oath.

    No, this is just good old fashioned douchebaggery, masquerading under the guise of IP protection.

  • by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:20PM (#42812757)

    Yet, either way Amazon will be the one getting sued by one or both of these people.

    Why? Amazon is just neutral territory.

    The author just needs to file a DMCA counter-notice, and that will be the end of the involvement of Amazon.

    Then, it will be up to the UK-based company to sue the book author directly, for trademark infringement instead of copyright infringement (assuming they're even willing to go that far, because if they sue, they will probably lose -- so it's really not in their interests to sue). The author should just ask them if she can license the trademark for $1 in perpetuity for her existing ebook and try to settle this matter quietly out of court.

  • Re:Starcraft (Score:4, Informative)

    by metrometro (1092237) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:41PM (#42813047)

    Since they copied it directly from previous works, and it is a term currently in use in various places, can they actually trademark it?

    No. Trademarks are not like copyright - there is a formal approval process, though "first use in commerce" also counts somewhat. Games Workshop was granted a 1987 trademark on the term "space marine" in "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." They have a second trademark for "video computer games; computer software for playing games".

    This trademark is suspect, but it's now law. However, they have no protection for, say, novels or ebooks. Which makes their takedown pure bullying.

    USPTO data below.

    Word Mark SPACE MARINE
    Goods and Services 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
    Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
    Serial Number 74186534
    Filing Date July 19, 1991
    Current Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Published for Opposition November 23, 1993
    Registration Number 1922180
    Registration Date September 26, 1995
    Owner (REGISTRANT) GAMES WORKSHOP LIMITED CORPORATION UNITED KINGDOM Willow Road, Lenton Eastwood Nottingham NG7 2W5 UNITED KINGDOM
    Attorney of Record Naresh Kilaru
    Type of Mark TRADEMARK
    Register PRINCIPAL
    Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20051125.
    Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20051125
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

    Word Mark SPACE MARINE
    Goods and Services (CANCELLED) IC 002. US 006 011 016. G & S: [paints, namely, water based acrylic paints for artists]
    IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: video computer games; computer software for playing games

    Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
    Serial Number 75010236
    Filing Date October 25, 1995
    Current Basis 44E
    Original Filing Basis 44D
    Published for Opposition July 8, 1997
    Change In Registration CHANGE IN REGISTRATION HAS OCCURRED
    Registration Number 2100767
    Registration Date September 30, 1997
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Games Workshops Limited CORPORATION UNITED KINGDOM WILLOW ROAD LENTON, NOTTINGHAM UNITED KINGDOM NG72 2WS
    Attorney of Record Naresh Kilaru
    Priority Date September 20, 1995
    Prior Registrations 1922180
    Type of Mark TRADEMARK
    Register PRINCIPAL
    Affidavit Text SECT 15. PARTIAL SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20080422.
    Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20080422
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:18PM (#42813637)

    Hogarth tried that route. Amazon referred her back to Games Workshop. :P so, until GW backs down officially, Amazon refuses to actually use any brainpower and read the trademark for themselves.

  • Re:Wrong headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Umuri (897961) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:43PM (#42814601)

    Shouldn't it read: "Games Workshop commits perjury filing false DMCA take down request."?

    perjury is lying under oath.

    No, this is just good old fashioned douchebaggery, masquerading under the guise of IP protection.

    Actually, DMCA notices are sent under penalty of perjury. So in effect, they ARE under oath. Whoever marked the above as informative needs to read the laws they cower from.

  • by spain (612172) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @07:56AM (#42819163)

    The ironic thing is that (at least according to rumor) Blizzard actually wanted Warcraft to be a Warhammer game, but GW was so anal about protecting their IP that they refused to license it. So they missed out out on roughly a kajillion dollars of profit and brand exposure and the video games they came out with in the 90s were pretty mediocre.

    Not just a rumor: http://kotaku.com/5929161/how-warcraft-was-almost-a-warhammer-game-and-how-that-saved-wow [kotaku.com] If Games Workshop had eased up on the stubbornness and need to control everything, millions of people would be playing (and paying for) "World of Warhammer" instead of "World of Warcraft".

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