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. . .so they say.

I don't have a lot of energy for this right now, so I'll just give a brief overview.

The term "space marine" has a long history in science fiction literature, it being the term employed to describe Marines who serve on spaceships (duh).  Possibly the term goes back to the Lensman (by E.E. "Doc" Smith) books, published in the 1950s.  It may be older, since the old pulp magazines were big on what's now called Military SF.

Enter Game Workshop, which publishes a game called Warhammer, and has begun selling books and ebooks about Warhammer-specific "space marines."

Game Workshop has had at least one book using "space marine" in the title pulled from Amazon.com, because the work "infringes on its trademark."

Amazon, which remains Quite Ignorant about most common practices in publishing, pulls the book.  Of course, when Amazon pulls your book, and you're an author, there is no appeal. There is no way to talk to Amazon, no way to get a review, and no one I've ever heard of has ever had a book reinstated, once pulled.

Pressed, Game Workshop claims to have a trademark on "space marines" in games only (which also Makes No Sense; the first use of "space marine" in gaming being 1977 when a game issued by FanTac was titled...wait for it:  Space Marine).

They back-pedal a little, and say that they have a trademark in the European Union, which immediately became relevant in the United States when they began publishing novels and ebooks about Warhammer "space marines."

This is, to say the least, a very large case of stupid, and an author is wrongly losing income because of Game Workshop's willful lack of understanding.  More worrisome is that they have said that they will aggressively  protect their mark (as they should, if they have a mark that is actually, yanno, valid), so I'm guessing that all of us who have ever used "space marines" in a novel or short story are in Big Trouble Now.

For the curious, that list would include, but not be limited to, Robert A. Heinlein, Elizabeth Moon, and David Weber.  

...and MCA Hogarth, the author whose book was pulled, who cannot afford a lawyer, and who really doesn't need this kind of nonsense in her life right now.

Link salad:

In the future, all space marines will be Warhammer 4000 space marines

Space Marines and the Battle of Tradem Ark

Games Workshop is still claiming to own the trademark to “Space Marine.”

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”~Thomas Mann

    by Rolanni on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:52:44 PM PST

  •  Guess Wikipedia (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rolanni, DruidQueen, SilentBrook, Kevskos

    needs to pull this page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:58:35 PM PST

  •  Back when they did the Indy Jones RPG... (6+ / 0-)

    TSR put a trademark symbol next to "Nazi" on all their cardboard character stand-ups.

    I suspect this will go over about as well as that did.

    -----
    Tom Smith Online
    I want a leader who shoots for the moon. The last time we had one, we got to the moon.

    by filkertom on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:25:49 PM PST

    •  TSR stands for "They Sue Regularly" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      filkertom

      IIRC they'd sue the competition for using concepts like hit points.

      “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Lyndon Baines Johnson

      by spacecadet1 on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:49:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a lifelong gamer, I say... (4+ / 0-)

    Fuck Games Workshop.

    Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

    by EthrDemon on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:26:19 PM PST

  •  Raead about this on Boing Boing. Hasn't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    spacecadet1, SilentBrook, Kevskos

    anybody heard of "Prior use"? We need a law to penalize bogus copyright claims to the tune of massive amounts of money.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:34:25 PM PST

  •  So will Games Workshop sue Blizzard? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    spacecadet1, SilentBrook

    Cuz of Starcraft?

    I'd like to see that happen. Pretty sure Blizz will laugh all the way to the bank.

  •  According to their website (0+ / 0-)

    they also claim trademark protection for common-usage terms like Fanatic, White Dwarf, and Tau. As long as they limit their protection efforts to gaming, they're probably OK, but I'd love to see them publish books based on the relevant games and then try to block the sale of any book using one of these terms.

    Of course, IANAL.

    "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

    by pragmaticidealist on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:00:17 PM PST

    •  Um, no... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kevskos, mythatsme

      ...I can't see how those claims can even hold up inside of gaming.

      I'm not a lawyer, either, but my husband and I do own a trademark, and I have a Very Clear Memory of how many and what kind of hoops we were required to jump through to be Very, Very Certain that there was no prior usage and that the phrase in question was, without a doubt, only relevant to us/our work.

      I can't imagine how Game Workshops even got a limited trademark on "space marine" given its history and the breadth of usage.

      “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”~Thomas Mann

      by Rolanni on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:35:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You could be right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rolanni

        As I said, I am not a lawyer. However, I've seen enough trademark disputes (I'm in marketing) that it seems to me they may have defensible space within the specific uses to which they put the marks -- i.e., as game names, social caste systems within games, etc.  -- but the bottom line is it's just a guess on my part, even if it is based on experience.

        On the other hand, I've gotten legal department folk to check on trademark possibilities for a bunch of things that I never dreamed were truly possible trademarks, and gotten at least guardedly positive replies, so I'm not going to assume that they can't use and protect these. In my experience it's often the ability to afford legal costs that determines who wins a trademark dispute, rather than the virtue of one's position.

        So, yeah, given the widespread prior usage in both SF and gaming, and the relatively deep pockets of at least some of the likely "infringing" parties, the Space Marines TM looks like a lost cause. These others? I don't know about their prior use within the gaming space, so that's why I said they may be defensible in that realm.

        Maybe some of the DKos legal types will weigh in?

        "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

        by pragmaticidealist on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:52:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This looks very much like (0+ / 0-)

    something a friend of mine put up on his fb page.

    Do you know a certain Sea Wasp?

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:25:28 PM PST

    •  Of course I know Sea Wasp (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter

      ...we share a publisher, for one thing.  I know he was pretty corked off.  Most of the writers I know -- mostly SF/Fantasy writers -- are Beyond Horrified.  I would suspect that SFWA is on this, just going by John Scalzi's  (the seated SFWA president) comments.

      “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”~Thomas Mann

      by Rolanni on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:31:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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