Mojang and Bethesda Are Going to Court

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RealDarkelfguy:
*sigh* Here we go again. Another news story about the "Bethesda vs Mojang" trademark dispute, and suddenly people get all worked up with "Anti-Bethesda" hysteria and saying they have no case without even bothering to research trademark law or, heaven forbid, the actual trademarks related to this dispute. And once more, people seem to be blindly latching on to the concept that Notch and crew are somehow victims in this whole mess. Now there's a lot more to this whole issue than the rather narrow-minded view that "Notch is right, Bethesda is wrong and being bullies" that a lot of people seem to have adopted of late. Like everything else in this world, this trademark dispute is hardly so black and white. Let's examine the facts of the issue in detail before passing judgement on either party.

First of all, the way trademark law works is once you register a trademark, you have to defend it against any and all threats or risk losing it (and this has been mentioned several times now). This doesn't mean that one company gets to use that trademark exclusively though. Different companies can hold the same trademark (well, the same trademarked word at least) for different products. For example, you're probably familiar with Id Software's trademark on "Rage", but this trademark can co-exist with other "Rage" trademarks like the "Rage" trademark on motor-scooters and another "Rage" trademark on pesticides (fun fact: there's over 30 different trademarks on the word "Rage"). You see trademark disputes when a company owns a trademark and another company tries to register a similar trademark for the same product type (in this case it's computer games). That by itself isn't necessarily enough to pursue trademark infringement (unless you're Tim Langdell), you also have to establish a case for similarity. With "The Elder Scrolls" and "Scrolls" the similarities should be apparent to anyone who has actually looked up the two games. They're both fantasy themed and they both appear to have RPG-like elements to them. That right there is enough to establish trademark infringement for most legal courts, so Bethesda does have a fairly decent case. And again, as stated at the start of this paragraph, if Bethesda didn't take any legal action to this threat to their trademark, it could cause them to lose "The Elder Scrolls" later on.

*Please note that when I say that "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" have notable similarities, I'm talking about the kind of similarities that will determine the outcome of the case in court. Obviously "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" are two very different games and have few actual gameplay similarities. As gamers, we all know that, but we're talking about trademark similarities with a court of law, not a court of gamers. Tim Langdell got away with his whole "Edge" trademark trolling with far less, he didn't even have an argument for similarities other than they were games.*

Furthermore, it's important to consider that trademark disputes are not rare, in fact, they're fairly common. Although it must be admitted that most trademark disputes are not revealed to the public (or gather much media attention), much less announced on Twitter. Besides the Tim Langdell cases and this one, how many trademark disputes has anyone actually heard about? Not many, I'd gather. What is rather unique about this case is that it's actually going to court, as usually the two parties in a trademark dispute settle matters outside of the courtroom.

And, if you're still having doubts about the legitimacy of Bethesda's case, here's a quote from a legal expert interviewed by Wired.com last month.

" Attorney and game industry analyst Mark Methenitis told Wired.com that the publisher was just doing what any prudent trademark holder would normally do.

"The basic question here is whether the two trademarks are likely to be confused," Methenitis said in an e-mail. "There's a pretty well-established test for this under U.S. trademark law, and based on those factors, Bethesda has a reasonable argument." "

Source: http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2011/08/minecraft-bethesda-lawsuit/

Finally, before you jump to take Notch's side in this issue, you should know the specifics of his "Scrolls" trademark. I took the liberty of looking it up on the Electronic Trademark Database and it's pretty surprising. It's not just a trademark on computer-games. Notch's trademark for the word "Scrolls" includes clothing (of all types, including t-shirts), hardware platforms, boardgames, toys, hand-helds, and traditional card games. This means that Bethesda's case against Mojang may not be the last court battle Notch will have to face over this, as his trademark clearly violates the trademarks of other companies (such as the Scrolls Clothing Company, which owns the trademark of "Scrolls" for t-shirts). The sheer broadness of Notch's "Scrolls" trademark is rather astounding, as most companies specify one thing for a trademark and make additional trademark registrations for additional products (for example, Bethesda has 6 separate trademarks on "The Elder Scrolls", covering everything from clothing to their forums, but each trademark covers only one thing). I imagine this is usually done in order to avoid large-scale trademark infringements.

Furthermore, just because you make a game doesn't mean you have to register a trademark for it! The vast majority of indie games DO NOT have trademarks! It's not a legal requirement in the slightest, and Notch could keep the name of his game as "Scrolls" if he dropped the trademark. Heck, I imagine there wouldn't be much of a legal issue if he had trademarked a full title like "Scrolls: The Card Game" or anything a little more complicated than just "Scrolls".

If you're interested in doing a bit of research on this subject, I encourage you to look up the trademarks that are involved. You can find Notch's trademark (and pretty much every other trademark ever registered) at this website: http://tess2.uspto.gov/

Good info here, thanks for posting this :D

I only hope some of the more knee-jerk people will take the time to read it...

i havent heard the elders scrolls series being referred to as "scrolls", only by the games name (eg, oblivion, skyrim, etc).

I am really starting to dislike Bethesda.

And to think... I was beginning to rethink my boycott of there products.

Hahaha.
This is absurd!
I mean, seriously ?
Bethesda doesn't have any kind of a case : it's as if, say, those "edge" guys I used to hear about tried to sue the guys making "Soul Edge"!
Haha...
Oh. I see. What a lovely world we live in.

Ok, seriously now : I love Bethesda as a developper : they are among the greatest. The problem is, they seem to have a problem with anyone else who wants to be a dev too. These guys need to understand that people can't go on with one elder scrolls title every 5 years. Sure, these are good games, but sometimes along those 5 years, you'll want to play something else.

You know, you always hear about frivulous lawsuits that sound rediculously stupid, but it's always nice to witness one happening from a company.

i would understand if Wizards of the Caost ( makers om Magic ) suide Mojang. because the games look similair. But i geuss the lawyers of Bethesda got nothing to do and sins the are paid anyway the decided to go do this.

a personal geuss would be that a creeper blew up there minecraft office

ToastiestZombie:
I bet Todd Howard and the like were fine with the Quake Match but NO they had to be useful whilst ruining everyone else time!

The Article said the dispute is with Bethesda Softworks which is a different branch of the company than Howard works in (that's Bethesda Game Studios). This is basically a battle with Bethesda the Publisher, not Bethesda the Developer.

Bethesda is just being dumb.

And I'm not saying this because I like Mojang over Bethesda. I like Minecraft and I like the Elder's Scrolls series. Hell, if it were Satan being sued here I'd still root for him because it's ridiculous. I see no basis for Bethesda to win here, and I really hope they won't.

XT inc:
I hope Mojang Wins, not because they made minecraft, but Because I think Bethesda are being complete morons and in their own way Insulting consumers intellegence.

Game is callsed Scrolls, Those dumb customers might think its our game and it isn't we better spend a ton on legal fees to sort this out.

The Ironic thing is most people I know, know of the elder scrolls games, and Can Identify them, but they call the game by its subtitle. It isnt The Elderscrolls 3,4 and five it is Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim.

Im also excited for scrolls because Apparently Jerry holkins of Penny arcade wrote for it.

I honestly thought that Oblivion was the Oblivion series. I didn't even realize it was part of the Elder Scroll series till I squinted at the box about a year after owning it.

wait is this zeni max doing the suing or bethesda cause their different you know

I don't know why, but this all reminded me of how stupid some fans can be.

A few years back, there was someone on a forum that just kept wanting to talk about Mewtwo and everyone's response was about pokemon. Then that poster was like, "What are you people talking about? Pokemon sucks. I want to talk about Mewtwo." This really confused everyone. Finally someone asked, "What do you mean by Mewtwo if not the pokemon?" to which the poster responded, "MW2, Modern Warfare 2."

And then there was another time when someone was asking about people's favorite games and someone posted GoW, since this was a Playstation forum everyone started talking about God of War. That person was talking about Gears of War. This person was such a fan of Gears that they were trying to convince the whole forum to accept that GoW was Gears of War and that God of War should use different initials. I'm not sure how it works today, but back then Gears was the commonly accepted shortened form for Gears of War and GoW was used for God of War since God of War came out first.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is a reason why court cases like these don't normally reach the public, we're not nearly as smart as we like to believe we are, and don't really know how the system works. We have our small perception of how it works and believe that everyone thinks the same way.

Now I like Notch and and I like Minecraft, but to announce a court case on twitter, especially for someone of his position; that is pretty low.

josemlopes:
This is so stupid, everyone knows that Scrolls is Scrolls and that Skyrim is fucking SKYRIM, are they really scared that people will mistake the titles? A lot of people probably just forget "The Elder Scrolls" part of the title and just go with Skyrim (like Morrowind and Oblivion, almost no one says Elder Scrolls 3 or Elder Scrolls 4)

I think it's more to do with Bethesda going 'Ooh, the name of their game is slightly similar to ours. Let's sue them and nab a bit of extra cash.'

Bah! I was looking forward to the Quake 3 Deathmatch. :<

Since I was bored I decided to do a google trends search to see the difference between the searches for elder scrolls, and their subtitles.

image

Obviously there wouldn't be much on morrowind (compared to oblivion) since it came out in 2002, and this dates from the beginning of 2004. I'm guessing skyrim will pick up once it gets released.

I don't really feel like giving an opinion, I'm no expert on stuff like this, and there may be something I don't know that might make my opinion seem stupid.

This is still dragging on? Part of me now wants to design a game called The Older Scrolls just to mess with Bethesda.

Bethesda really seems to loves them some lawsuits these days.

I personally don't see how naming their game Scrolls is such a big deal. When I think of Morrowind or Oblivion I don't even think about "Elder Scrolls" it's such a small aspect of it. I think of them simply as Morrowind and Oblivion. When I think about the Vampire: The Masquerade games, I think of Redemption or Bloodlines, not the series. That's a faster and more precise way to describe the product in question. I just don't see the problem.

In other news: Nintendo are filing lawsuits against every living person called "Zelda" or "Mario"

Can they really pull this off? If they do i think i might have to punch myself in the face. Should Rockstar have sued the creators of Dead Island because of the word "Dead"? Actually, i wonder how far you could have traced that back with horror franchises if you monopolized the word "Dead".

But like someone said earlier in the thread i really don't think anyone calls the games "The Elder Scrolls" at least no one i know does.

As far as I understand, US copyright law is the real problem here. Bethesda could potentially lose the right to the franchise (not sure who would get it?) if they don't viciously attack any perceived attempt at copying them. Which of course would be catastrophic for them.

Krantos:

ToastiestZombie:
I bet Todd Howard and the like were fine with the Quake Match but NO they had to be useful whilst ruining everyone else time!

The Article said the dispute is with Bethesda Softworks which is a different branch of the company than Howard works in (that's Bethesda Game Studios). This is basically a battle with Bethesda the Publisher, not Bethesda the Developer.

I meant to say "I bet Todd Howard and the like were fine with the Quake Match but NO the lawyers had to make themselves useful whilst ruining everyone else's good time!". I know that this is Bethesda the publisher vs mojang, not Bethesda the developer

poleboy:
As far as I understand, US copyright law is the real problem here. Bethesda could potentially lose the right to the franchise (not sure who would get it?) if they don't viciously attack any perceived attempt at copying them. Which of course would be catastrophic for them.

The case is being put to court in Sweden, isn't it? I'm not an expert, but I have an interest and an education, so I do know something about the law here in Sweden (where I live).

Here you can't copyright or even trademark simple words, even loan words such as "Cola" from the famous brand of softdrinks-- there must be a logo incorporating original artwork, and if it is an infrignment case there needs to be clear similarities between the artwork and proof that they will suffer losses due to the potential confusion. This case won't hold under Swedish law, and I think Notch knows it -- thus his nonchalante attitude. Unless Bethesda somehow manages to levy influence on the government, their case is dead. That's been proven to be quite doable unfortunately, with numerous political extraditions and spurious arrests. I very much doubt that would have any beneficial effect on this case, though!

I already knew Bethesda are assholes, so this doesn't surprise me one bit.

EDIT: Nevermind, this is about the US trademark, so this is irrelevant.

Dimitriov:

RealDarkelfguy:
*sigh* Here we go again. Another news story about the "Bethesda vs Mojang" trademark dispute, and suddenly people get all worked up with "Anti-Bethesda" hysteria and saying they have no case without even bothering to research trademark law or, heaven forbid, the actual trademarks related to this dispute. And once more, people seem to be blindly latching on to the concept that Notch and crew are somehow victims in this whole mess. Now there's a lot more to this whole issue than the rather narrow-minded view that "Notch is right, Bethesda is wrong and being bullies" that a lot of people seem to have adopted of late. Like everything else in this world, this trademark dispute is hardly so black and white. Let's examine the facts of the issue in detail before passing judgement on either party.

First of all, the way trademark law works is once you register a trademark, you have to defend it against any and all threats or risk losing it (and this has been mentioned several times now). This doesn't mean that one company gets to use that trademark exclusively though. Different companies can hold the same trademark (well, the same trademarked word at least) for different products. For example, you're probably familiar with Id Software's trademark on "Rage", but this trademark can co-exist with other "Rage" trademarks like the "Rage" trademark on motor-scooters and another "Rage" trademark on pesticides (fun fact: there's over 30 different trademarks on the word "Rage"). You see trademark disputes when a company owns a trademark and another company tries to register a similar trademark for the same product type (in this case it's computer games). That by itself isn't necessarily enough to pursue trademark infringement (unless you're Tim Langdell), you also have to establish a case for similarity. With "The Elder Scrolls" and "Scrolls" the similarities should be apparent to anyone who has actually looked up the two games. They're both fantasy themed and they both appear to have RPG-like elements to them. That right there is enough to establish trademark infringement for most legal courts, so Bethesda does have a fairly decent case. And again, as stated at the start of this paragraph, if Bethesda didn't take any legal action to this threat to their trademark, it could cause them to lose "The Elder Scrolls" later on.

*Please note that when I say that "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" have notable similarities, I'm talking about the kind of similarities that will determine the outcome of the case in court. Obviously "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" are two very different games and have few actual gameplay similarities. As gamers, we all know that, but we're talking about trademark similarities with a court of law, not a court of gamers. Tim Langdell got away with his whole "Edge" trademark trolling with far less, he didn't even have an argument for similarities other than they were games.*

Furthermore, it's important to consider that trademark disputes are not rare, in fact, they're fairly common. Although it must be admitted that most trademark disputes are not revealed to the public (or gather much media attention), much less announced on Twitter. Besides the Tim Langdell cases and this one, how many trademark disputes has anyone actually heard about? Not many, I'd gather. What is rather unique about this case is that it's actually going to court, as usually the two parties in a trademark dispute settle matters outside of the courtroom.

And, if you're still having doubts about the legitimacy of Bethesda's case, here's a quote from a legal expert interviewed by Wired.com last month.

" Attorney and game industry analyst Mark Methenitis told Wired.com that the publisher was just doing what any prudent trademark holder would normally do.

"The basic question here is whether the two trademarks are likely to be confused," Methenitis said in an e-mail. "There's a pretty well-established test for this under U.S. trademark law, and based on those factors, Bethesda has a reasonable argument." "

Source: http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2011/08/minecraft-bethesda-lawsuit/

Finally, before you jump to take Notch's side in this issue, you should know the specifics of his "Scrolls" trademark. I took the liberty of looking it up on the Electronic Trademark Database and it's pretty surprising. It's not just a trademark on computer-games. Notch's trademark for the word "Scrolls" includes clothing (of all types, including t-shirts), hardware platforms, boardgames, toys, hand-helds, and traditional card games. This means that Bethesda's case against Mojang may not be the last court battle Notch will have to face over this, as his trademark clearly violates the trademarks of other companies (such as the Scrolls Clothing Company, which owns the trademark of "Scrolls" for t-shirts). The sheer broadness of Notch's "Scrolls" trademark is rather astounding, as most companies specify one thing for a trademark and make additional trademark registrations for additional products (for example, Bethesda has 6 separate trademarks on "The Elder Scrolls", covering everything from clothing to their forums, but each trademark covers only one thing). I imagine this is usually done in order to avoid large-scale trademark infringements.

Furthermore, just because you make a game doesn't mean you have to register a trademark for it! The vast majority of indie games DO NOT have trademarks! It's not a legal requirement in the slightest, and Notch could keep the name of his game as "Scrolls" if he dropped the trademark. Heck, I imagine there wouldn't be much of a legal issue if he had trademarked a full title like "Scrolls: The Card Game" or anything a little more complicated than just "Scrolls".

If you're interested in doing a bit of research on this subject, I encourage you to look up the trademarks that are involved. You can find Notch's trademark (and pretty much every other trademark ever registered) at this website: http://tess2.uspto.gov/

Good info here, thanks for posting this :D

I only hope some of the more knee-jerk people will take the time to read it...

I went from: "Whoa Bethesda! What's going on dudes?! Why???"
To: "Oooohhh... I wonder how this will turn out."

I love both companies enough to not pick sides. Folks should read this post for perspective.

Dimitriov:

RealDarkelfguy:
-snip-
...If you're interested in doing a bit of research on this subject, I encourage you to look up the trademarks that are involved. You can find Notch's trademark (and pretty much every other trademark ever registered) at this website: http://tess2.uspto.gov/

Good info here, thanks for posting this :D

I only hope some of the more knee-jerk people will take the time to read it...

They will not because they have already decide that Notch is innocent and Bethesda's the evil one here. The lack of understanding basic law in the forums is staggering.

RealDarkelfguy:
[snip]
*Please note that when I say that "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" have notable similarities, I'm talking about the kind of similarities that will determine the outcome of the case in court. Obviously "Scrolls" and "The Elder Scrolls" are two very different games and have few actual gameplay similarities. As gamers, we all know that, but we're talking about trademark similarities with a court of law, not a court of gamers. Tim Langdell got away with his whole "Edge" trademark trolling with far less, he didn't even have an argument for similarities other than they were games.*
[snip]

Ya, look at this:

That's ridiculous. I guess the US doesn't require original artwork in trademarks? A generic font is ok? (Edit: apparently it is -- how that works is beyond me)

Based on that similarity, I'm wondering what the hell either of these companies where thinking submitting general claims like that. I can understand Bethesda wanting to court-troll some additional revenues, but Mojang? Are they planning to sue someone, with that kind of overreaching and obviously contentious trademark claim?

OT : I am not faimiliar with USA's judical system (not that i want to see it in action, thank you).

Out of curiosity : can someone explain it to me - is it ok for enterprise, let's say... game developer to name itself after existing city, person ad such ? For example, "Bethesda" or "Barack Obama" ?

I don't know much if anything about law but I'm certain Mojang will win and benefit from this publicity. This scrolls game sounds fun. This is ridiculous. Elder scrolls games suck anyway so does fallout.

Woohoo go Bethesda!

I'm sorry, but I don't care at all about Notch's "Video Card Game With a Boring Title That Bethesda Gave a Gracious Chance to Reconsider Due to the Fact That it Bears a Passing Resemblance to Something That Could be Interpreted as a Spin-off to the Elder Scrolls Series".

JesterRaiin:
OT : I am not faimiliar with USA's judical system (not that i want to see it in action, thank you).

Out of curiosity : can someone explain it to me - is it ok for enterprise, let's say... game developer to name itself after existing city, person ad such ? For example, "Bethesda" or "Barack Obama" ?

It's absolutely ok. The real concern would be trademarking, which is why their trademark is for "Behtesda Softworks" much like you could get one for "Dallas Softworks" or "London Softworks", or for that case "Bethesda Automotive".

And it's not purely judicial. Copyright/Trademark concerns cover most of the civilized world.

Ninjafire72:

Xman490:
I'm not buying Skyrim. EVER. AND NO FALLOUT EITHER.
(This is partly because I'm not okay with Bethesda and I'm not okay with its first-person games.)

To all people planning to not buy elder scrolls and boycot Bethesda: don't do it. As ridculous as this case is, games like Fallout and Skyrims are great games and boycotting games THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD (and therefore aren't money-squeezing piles of crap) isn't helping anyone. Besides, like people before me have said it's the Bethesda publisher who are being dicks, not the Bethesda game studio.

Hate the publisher, not the developer. ^_^

Yeah, I know boycotting rarely does anything important, but I'm still not really interested in Fallout or Skyrim.

subtlefuge:
Woohoo go Bethesda!

I'm sorry, but I don't care at all about Notch's "Video Card Game With a Boring Title That Bethesda Gave a Gracious Chance to Reconsider Due to the Fact That it Bears a Passing Resemblance to Something That Could be Interpreted as a Spin-off to the Elder Scrolls Series".

It bears as much of a passing resemblance as Dragon Age does to Dungeons and Dragons. And how is it a gracious move? Bethesda demanded money from Mojang for the 'inconvenience' of pursuing legal action.

Go Mojang, fight for what's right!

Out of all the things to sue over, a name has got to be one of the lamest. It's like Mc Feast being sued by Mc Donald's because of the 'Mc'. (Apparently Mc Donald's owns irish sir names) I mean, "scrolls"? In other news, it'll be funny to watch the Minecraft fans go to war with the Elder scrolls fans. (Cause when it comes to an issue like this, gamers will inevitably take it personally and commence the internet poo-flinging.)

subtlefuge:
Woohoo go Bethesda!

I'm sorry, but I don't care at all about Notch's "Video Card Game With a Boring Title That Bethesda Gave a Gracious Chance to Reconsider Due to the Fact That it Bears a Passing Resemblance to Something That Could be Interpreted as a Spin-off to the Elder Scrolls Series".

That doesn't mean you should be supporting the latest redition of the whole 'Edge' trademark bullshit.

You shouldn't be against Zenimax because they're picking on the little guy. You should be against them because the entire case is bloody rediculuous.

I think you can only go to court if the name is "EXACTLY the same" I think EVERYONE can agreed that "Elder Scrolls", and "Scrolls" is complete different names... why fighting over it?

raankh:

That's ridiculous. I guess the US doesn't require original artwork in trademarks? A generic font is ok? (Edit: apparently it is -- how that works is beyond me)

Based on that similarity, I'm wondering what the hell either of these companies where thinking submitting general claims like that. I can understand Bethesda wanting to court-troll some additional revenues, but Mojang? Are they planning to sue someone, with that kind of overreaching and obviously contentious trademark claim?

From what I understand, trademarks in the US can be a single word or phrase without the requirement of original artwork or logos. So the generic font probably just signals a trademark of the word/phrase in this case. It's rather interesting actually, the vast majority of the trademark searches I've done returns a fairly large number of trademarks in generic font with no original artwork attached. Must be a fairly common practice over here in the US.

As for the contents of Mojang's trademark (and the number of products/services it covers), I'm not sure if that was deliberate. Notch seems to be painfully ignorant of how trademark law works, even seeming a bit disdainful of the whole process, and I suspect this might have been the cause for his overreaching trademark claim.

It's the "Edge" case all over again.

I guess the only thing left to do is buy Skyrim used when the price drops... suck it Bethesda. I'll have my cake and eat it too. In my Minecraft lair. Yeeuh ya hurd me hater.

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