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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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:10PM (#42811797)

    Even companies are now acting out of fear of an overreaching ill-defined law. If companies with legal departments staffed to the gills are incapable of interpreting the law then what chance does the common-or-garden person have?

    "Ignorance is no excuse" is bullshit. I can produce any number of laws you can't physically process within the confines of reality, be it sheer information volume or time required to read and process. I can literally throw more shit at you than you could ever hope to digest as a human being. Does this make you "ignorant"? No...it makes you "I have more important shit to deal with than your stupid crap".

    Fucking idiots. Total fucking idiots.

  • by Daemonik (171801) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:11PM (#42811813) Homepage

    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.'"

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

  • It's the lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:14PM (#42811845)

    This is what happens when you let a bunch of lawyers take over the country's judicial system. Every business is scared shitless of lawsuits. Every little complaint results in a massive overreaction.

  • My question is... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:19PM (#42811927)

    Once we colonize the moon or mars and have marines stationed there, will the U.S Government NOT be able to call them Space Marines? You know Marines that reside in SPACE?

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:20PM (#42811935) Journal

    The problem isn't the Lawyers in the Judicial System, it is Lawyers in the other two branches. Can anyone say "conflict of interest" in making laws only lawyers can benefit from?

  • by preaction (1526109) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:23PM (#42811973)

    GW has always been extremely protective of their IP, to the point of this insanity. There are people who write programs to help them play GW games, they get C+D letters (a couple army builder programs, because they included numbers from GW copyrighted books, which you still need to know the rules to play).

    It sucks because GW does make good games. They just want absolute control over how you're able to play them. I wonder what would happen if TSR had exercised the same control...

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:28PM (#42812065)

    Noone is claiming copyright. Games Workshop are misusing their trademark and Amazon is complicit.

  • by Quirkz (1206400) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:29PM (#42812887) Homepage
    And in the time you replied, it would have been reverted by whoever considers himself the owner of that section of Wikipedia.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:41PM (#42813055)

    There's a case pretty squarely on point, Tiffany v. eBay

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiffany_Inc._v._eBay,_Inc.

    Your link says this: Tiffany sued eBay for trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising but eventually lost against eBay on all claims. This seems to be the opposite of what you imply it says.

    Common law trademarks carry very little legal weight, and there is no penalty for violating them. If GW wants to make a claim of infringement, Amazon should go tell them to go register with the USPTO first.

    Btw, you need to stop posting as "Anonymous Coward" because I have a common law trademark on that term.

  • by _KiTA_ (241027) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:28PM (#42813751) Homepage

    This is ridiculous. If I were her, I'd call up the company and ask them if I could license their trademark for my existing book for $1 in perpetuity. This would resolve the issue of them being forced to defend their trademark.

    If that didn't work, I'd remove the book from Amazon UK, because I wouldn't want to be sued in the UK by this UK-based company, but then I'd file a counter-DMCA takedown on Amazon - US?

    I don't know if this is good legal advice. I'm not a lawyer. But this is what I would do if I had a ebook under my name. Either that, or since it's a ebook, I would just rename the book and just do like Prince did and append at the end of its name (formerly known as "Spots the Space Marines")

    $1 in perpetuity? That sounds reasonable, which suggests to me you've never heard of Games Workshop before.

    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.

    Games Workshop is not a company that is in any way reasonable. The only reason they're even still around is they have a very large amount of inertia and have some rather delightfully interesting storylines -- interesting enough that Blizzard ripped them off wholesale to make Warcraft (Warhammer Fantasy) and Starcraft (Warhammer 40k).
     
    ... Having said that, and descending completely into the frothy rant stage of the evening, the game itself is disgustingly overpriced, sub-par from a rule and balance standpoint, perpetually and intentionally traps their customers in a forced upgrade cycle... It's literally only a matter of time before Privateer Press or Wizards of the Coast buy them out.

    But yeah. GW is a bit butthurt because of Blizzard wholesale stealing, well, everything that Blizzard has been successful with in the past 20 years from Games Workshop. I'm not terribly surprised they're more vigilant nowadays.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:32PM (#42813789)

    Doesn't matter what the truth is or not, or whether a trademark is valid or not, or even what the law says. What matters is who has the lawyers and who doesn't. If you can't afford to fight a bully then the bully wins no matter what the law says.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:47PM (#42814641) Homepage Journal

    Your scenario may be true, but it doesn't describe what is going on here. Amazon is simply siding with the party that has the greatest power to drive their legal costs up.

    The problem is not with the law becoming *complex*, so much as it is becoming *cheap*. Lawyers are cheap enough for companies to use them to harass people, but not cheap enough that an ordinary person can afford to defend himself.

  • and there is no penalty for violating them.

    This is dangerously false, at least in the United States (where Amazon lives). Google the Lanham Act.

    Okay, I just googled it [wikipedia.org], and I don't see anything false about my statement. From the wiki: These provisions can be used to restrict, through the use of injunctions and damages, the importation of goods that infringe or counterfeit registered trademarks.

    Since "common law" == "not registered", I stand by original my statement.

    GP is right. Actions for infringement of a registered mark are unde sec. 32 of the Lanham Act. Actions for infringement of an *un*registered mark - I,e., a "common law" mark - are under sec. 43(a) of the Lanham Act. There's a reason why wiki is useful as a guide to find primary sources, like the statute, but is not a replacement for those sources,

    And yes, I am an IP lawyer.

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