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U.K. Judge Crushes Tim Langdell

| 17 Jun 2011 14:20
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Tim Langdell, the infamous copyright troll who made a long and lucrative career out of claiming ownership of the word "Edge," has been utterly dismantled by Future Publishing in a U.K. courtroom.

We haven't heard much from Dr. Tim Langdell since a U.S. court stripped him of several trademarks and he was kicked out of the International Game Developers Association back in October 2010. But a new High Court ruling come out of the U.K. has dragged Langdell and his dodgy business practices back into the spotlight in what must be, for him, an extremely unpleasant way.

The sheer breadth of the smackdown laid on Langdell by Mrs. Justice Proudman of the England and Wales High Court (Chancery Division) is truly awesome to behold. It's so wide-ranging that it's really rather difficult to grasp for those of us whose legal training consists of NBC's prime-time lineup, but the Reader's Digest version is this: Future Publishing brought suit against Langdell and his "Edge" businesses for breach of contract, breach of copyright and "passing off," and while Langdell offered up numerous and increasingly bizarre and implausible defenses against the claims, ultimately the judge was having none of it.

Proudman's first move was to declare that "Jack Phillips," who had occasionally made witness statements on behalf of Edge Interactive Media in the past, was most likely "an invention of Dr. Langdell." Creating a fake persona to support a court case sounds to me like a pretty bad way to kick things off but believe it or not, it only went downhill from there.

Langdell had previously asserted that the lawsuit was unnecessary because he had "met all the claimant's requests for undertakings before the claim was served." The judge, however, stated that the action in fact made perfect sense since lawyers for Edge Games insisted back in 2009 that the company had been using the Edge logo, the same one used by Future's Edge Magazine, for many years "and they will not cease using it because they are entitled to use it."

Langdell also claimed, rather richly, that Future could not copyright its Edge logo because it was merely the word "Edge" typed out in a standard font. This argument was rejected, as was the claim that he was granted permission in 2005 to use the logo, a statement denied by the man who allegedly granted the permission. Furthermore, in cross-examination Langdell admitted that he had actually copied the Edge logo to use as his letterhead in correspondence with Future.

"He said this was what he called 'an estoppel representation,' by which I understood him to mean that he was using it as a deliberate challenge to the claimant to complain about the use. He asserted rather vaguely that this entitled him to a license by conduct," the judge wrote in her final ruling. "I do not accept his contention."

Then things got really weird. Notwithstanding the fact that he admitted to copying the logo for his letterhead, Langdell also asserted in his defense that he had actually invented the Edge logo himself all the way back in January 1991. Proof of this was apparently contained on two 5.25" floppy disks, which were first mentioned by Langdell "in open correspondence" in May 2010 and didn't come up in this court case until November 29, 2010, as part of Langdell's seventh witness statement.

Langdell claimed that for reasons unknown, he had saved a copy of a catalog and flysheet containing the disputed Edge logo on diskette in 1991. An expert hired by Langdell examined the disk and claimed that not only was it a "genuine 1991 disk" but that in his opinion, "the information on it was genuinely created at that time." But when Future's own expert looked at it, he noted that while the disk was old, the 1991 content on it had actually been created by Windows 95 - which, as you might recall, was released in 1995, four years after 1991 - and then deliberately backdated. When confronted with this finding, Langdell's guy admitted that the content on the disk could not possibly be from 1991.

Rather than man up and take his lumps, Langdell then came up with "an involved and absurd story," in the words of the judge, involving a mixup with a mislabeled clone of the original disk. He claimed that he had backdated the disk images because he wanted the clone to be as close as possible to the original, although he was "wholly unable" to explain why. He then miraculously stumbled across a third disk, which he said was the actual, real, original 1991 disk, in October 2010, and which the judge noted was an oddly-timed coincidence.

"By October 2010 Dr. Langdell had seen Mr. Dearsley's report setting out the reasons why the information on disk 1 could not have been produced on the disk in 1991," she wrote. "Mr. Dearsley's view was that it would be possible to create a disk which did not show these software anomalies once the maker was armed with the Report's explanation of what was wrong with the previous version. Dr. Langdell said that he was technically incompetent to do such a thing but I do not accept his evidence that he did not either do it himself or procure someone else to do it."

Describing his explanations as "long and tortuous," the judge continued, "Dr. Langdell's story is incredible. The truth is a prosaic one, namely that Dr. Langdell concocted disk 1 in support of his claim that he had invented the Edge logo in 1991. When this was exposed by the claimant's expert he constructed an elaborate explanation and created disk 3, having learned from the Report how to avoid the mistakes he made the first time."

The beating continued. Proudman noted that "as Edge magazine's success grew, Dr. Langdell's behavior became increasingly burdensome." Future eventually agreed to pay $250,000 to Edge Interactive Media and another $25,000 to Langdell himself, "although the total sum was paid into Dr. Langdell's bank account," to buy out all related trademarks, but then Langdell went ahead and "deliberately adopted a logo which is an obvious replica of the claimant's Edge mark." The judge also agreed that Langdell intentionally attempted to confuse consumers about his connection to Edge magazine, citing as one example a letter to Apple written in March 2009 in which he said, "Edge is extremely well known for its other game products and services such as Edge magazine."

Langdell's oft-stated claim that his business was continuing to develop and sell videogames was also put to rest. The judge pointed out that although he made a last-minute offering of U.K. sales figures, no records that could actually support the numbers were provided. One such document was an invoice and shipping notice from late November 2010 to a company called Creative Distribution, but even though it was dated only ten days before the start of the trial, under cross-examination Langdell could not recall who he had dealt with at Creative Distribution, whether the communications took place via telephone or email, when the transaction had occurred, how the distribution company had become aware of the game in the first place - since, as the judge noted, Langdell's company has no "marketing or distributorship" - or even the terms and conditions of the sale.

There are other details, other legal points, other moments in which Langdell was caught with his pants down, but it becomes a bit of a pile-on after awhile and to be honest I started to feel just a little but bad for the guy. Not because he didn't bring this hammer down upon himself - he did - but because every imaginable aspect of his business and, to a large degree, his life was so thoroughly and mercilessly dismantled in the courtroom. I'm not a lawyer but I can't see where there's anything left for Langdell to salvage, and while I certainly won't mourn the end of his trademark trolling, I can't honestly find enjoyment in seeing a man so thoroughly and publicly humiliated and destroyed.

The final conclusion is almost mercifully brief: "The claimant therefore succeeds in establishing all claims pursued at trial," the judge wrote. And with that, it would seem that the era of Tim Langdell and Edge Games is finally and forever over.

The full ruling in Future Publishing Ltd. vs. The Edge Interactive Media, Edge Games Inc. and Dr. Timothy Langdell can be found at bailii.org.

via: Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

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