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Bethesda Tells Minecraft Creator: Cease and Desist

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the lawyers-being-lawyers dept.

The Courts 200

dotarray writes with news that Notch, creator of Minecraft, has received a letter from Zenimax, parent company of Bethesda, demanding that he rename his company's new game, which is called Scrolls. They claim it bears too strong a resemblance to The Elder Scrolls. Notch said: "First of all, I love Bethesda. I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is. ... I agree that the word 'Scrolls' is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image. The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary. We looked things up and realized they didn’t have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games."

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Can't you not (1)

CSFFlame (761318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001182)

normally copyright single common words?

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001200)

Irrelevant, since this is in regard to a trademark, not a copyright.

Re:Can't you not (3, Informative)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002606)

Yep, and it's pretty settled: Microsoft lost in the USA when claiming "Microsoft Windows" somehow gave them the exclusive right to the common word "Windows." And don't even get me started about that "edge" crap.

If you write a game about X (e.g. scrolls,) there is basically no way in the USA you can be prevented from using X in your product's name. It is descriptive, and can not be the exclusive property of someone else.

Re:Can't you not (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001202)

They aren't claiming copyright, so that's irrelevant.

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001204)

Intel certainly went after anyone using "inside" as a second word. And apple likes reminding people not to start a name with a lowecase i.

Re:Can't you not (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001348)

Apple can suck my iPenis.

Re:Can't you not (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001394)

Let me guess...

There's an app for that.

Re:Can't you not (1)

someSnarkyBastard (1521235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001528)

Any guesses as to what its price point would be in the App Store?

Re:Can't you not (1)

devphaeton (695736) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001710)

Pull up some youporn on your iPhone and iPenis gratification becomes free-99 at the local Fapp Store.

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001206)

normally copyright single common words?

How many scrolls do you carry around?

Re:Can't you not (5, Funny)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001362)

Anywhere between 5 and 10... I usually get 5 that are marked with the number 20 on a regular basis. I trade these scrolls with other people for goods and services and they usually hand me back scrolls with the numbers 1, 5, 10 or different combinations thereof in change. ;)

Re:Can't you not (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002612)

up to 99 of each type, maximum one type per letter of the alphabet, obviously!

But seriously, identify and recall are the must-have and 10-20 is really a minimum until you get something to replace them.

Re:Can't you not (2)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001212)

Indeed you can't. However, this is a trademark dispute, different rules (although I still think it is the height of stupid as they don't own the trademark on 'Scrolls').

Re:Can't you not (2)

Mastacheata87 (1759916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001842)

Isn't scrolls a quite common word making it untrademarkeable?
Especially when it comes to role playing games, most of them use the word in the normal gameplay.
That would make it pretty nonsensical to grant a trademark on that word for using it as the product's name.

This is not even taking into account that they don't use their trademark enough for it being confused with the Mojang game.
The official name of their Elder Scrolls series contains the word, but they are most commonly known and marketed by their subtitle.
Even the link between a game with scrolls in it's name and the Elder Scrolls series is only in my mind for this stupid action, I wouldn't have made any connection otherwise.

Re:Can't you not (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002092)

I'd say Apple is more common than Scrolls, yet you know you can't use it.

Re:Can't you not (1)

F.Ultra (1673484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002162)

An yet several companies have the word apple in them...

Re:Can't you not (1)

eqisow (877574) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002380)

But not computer companies. Trademark only applies for people in the same business, like making games.

Re:Can't you not (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002940)

Or music? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002332)

I'd say Apple is more common than Scrolls, yet you know you can't use it.

And the funny thing is that didn't stop Steve and Steve from using it for their computer company.

Re:Can't you not (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002344)

Only if you want to sale computers, software or digital media under that name. Say I want to create a company called Apple that sales toasters.

Re:Can't you not (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002330)

more like Mojang actually registered it. But I would say use as a story element and game title were two very different things.

Copyright != trademark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001258)

This is a trademark issue, not a copyright issue.

Despite all falling under the banner "intellectual property", Trademarks, Copyright, Patents, Designs Rights etc are all completely different types of monopoly and shouldn't be conflated (which is why "intellectual property" is, quite frankly, a useless term).

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001310)

1. Copyright the expression "First Post"
2. Sue half of Slashdot
3. ??? - There is no ???
4. Profit!!!

Re:Can't you not (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001470)

I believe the underwear gnomes will sue you first.

Re:Can't you not (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001802)

go ahead and trademark " '???' for use on internet based forums and SMS/IM messages" while you're at it. you should be able to cover a good percentage of the worlds population in law suits at that point.

Re:Can't you not (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002848)

Not really.

The moment you start pissing off the elite with such tricks, you'll find that any legal support you may have will mysteriously evaporate.

Re:Can't you not (1)

milkmage (795746) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002528)

copyright? no.
trademark? yes - for example - windows

Re:Can't you not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002680)

The actual trademark is "Microsoft Windows" not "Windows"

Re:Can't you not (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002640)

Firstly, this isn't copyright; it's a trademark. They're two entirely different things.

Secondly, you can't trademark common words in the industry in which they're common usage. For instance, "Apple" as the name of a greengrocer probably wouldn't fly, but "Apple" as the name of a computer company, or a music label obviously does. Also, trademarks only apply to things within the same domain - which is why Apple music and Apple computers could co-exist, until Apple started making inroads into the music industry.

Re:Can't you not (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002838)

You can trademark them. This is not the same as copyright.

Billable hours (2, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001188)

If this is how Zenimax's legal representation justifies their retainers they should be fired.

This was important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001418)

Bethesda just made my list of evil companies. Right up there with Oracle, Microsoft and Electronic Arts. I guess I'll just have to seed some scrolls to keep the karmic balance.

Re:This was important (1)

slaker (53818) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001532)

You have a list of evil software companies that doesn't include Adobe or Symantec?

Re:This was important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001696)

I think if you made a list of non-evil companies, the list would be more maintainable.

Re:This was important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001700)

And Apple? Come on, that company has more free cash than Dr. Evil. If they wanted to, they could buy Greenland.

Evil Software Companies (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001908)

You have a list of evil software companies that doesn't include Adobe or Symantec?

I like how the odd part is not making a list of evil software companies, but making the wrong one. =)

Re:This was important (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002156)

exactly. i can't get why companies don't realize what these types of actions do for their sales. i'll *probably* still buy the game... but considering that it was previously a "definitely" i think they should take heed and get the lawyers under a rope or two. 'cause i'm sure we're not the only ones who let things like this effect our purchasing decisions.

Re:This was important (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002376)

Bethesda softworks, the publisher, Bethesda games studios, the development studios, zenimax media the holding company, oh zenimax also own ID (game studio responsible for Quake and Doom series).

Re:Billable hours (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001862)

Why would you say that? ZeniMax has to defend their trademarks. Obviously, they would never take actual legal action against Notch for this, but they have to send a cease and desist in order to protect themselves during potential future litigation against companies that DO infringe upon their trademarks in a way that COULD harm ZeniMax. Why this is newsworthy beats me.

Re:Billable hours (1)

nickb64 (1885128) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002010)

It's been a slow news week, really. That's why this is newsworthy. Plus, who doesn't love a little Minecraft, and therefore, Notch.

Re:Billable hours (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002116)

Why would you say that? ZeniMax has to defend their trademarks. Obviously, they would never take actual legal action against Notch for this, but they have to send a cease and desist in order to protect themselves during potential future litigation against companies that DO infringe upon their trademarks in a way that COULD harm ZeniMax. Why this is newsworthy beats me.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Billable hours (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002224)

Why would you say that? ZeniMax have to defend their trademarks. Obviously, they would never take actual legal action against Notch for this, but they have to send a cease and desist in order to protect themselves during potential future litigation against companies that DO infringe upon their trademarks in a way that COULD harm ZeniMax. Why this is newsworthy beats me.

There, fixed that for you.

If you're gonna be an egotistical jackass posting simply to correct my grammar, perhaps you should actually correct it. Way to fail.

Re:Billable hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002272)

Someone that attempts to correct your grammar isn't necessarily an "egotistical jackass." They could have any number of reasons for doing so.

Re:Billable hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002820)

In case anyone's paying attention, this is a grammatical difference between the UK and the US. In the US, companies are referred to (and indeed, treated under the law) as a singular entity. Therefore, "ZeniMax has..." is correct. In the UK and other countries that have their own interpretation of English, companies are referred to in the plural sense, so "ZeniMax have..." is correct for them.

The more you know.

Re:Billable hours (1)

Fritzed (634646) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002160)

"Obviously, they would never take actual legal action against Notch for this"

From Notch's Blog:
"Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started."

Directly threatening to sue and demanding a 'pile of money' sure sounds like actual legal action to me.

Re:Billable hours (2)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002422)

shame one can't claim it as racketeering without physical violence being involved.

Re:Billable hours (2)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002258)

But you don't need to do that. You do need to actively protect your trademarks. However you only need to take actual action if likely confusion would result.

Since Notch's game is very unlikely to cause confusion, a cease and desist is not only not warranted, but might even open up Bethesda to potential liability for one of several torts. (I've never heard of anybody successfully suing for an overzealous C&D letter, but that does not make it impossible.)

What may been prudent is to send a letter reminding Notch that they own a trademark on "The Elder Scrolls", and that care should be taken in ensuring that the logo, gameplay, etc are sufficiently distinct to avoid any possible consumer confusion. The letter properly written would make it clear that they have no objection to the name as long as the rest of the game is sufficiently distinct.

That is all they need to do. Unfortunately most lawyers are not trained in writing such non-threatening letters, and they are very afraid of trying, since the wrong wording could be construed as a grant of rights to use the Trademark, which could result in being fired by their client, and possible a malpractice suit being filed against them.

Re:Billable hours (1)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002688)

They don't have a trademark on a common dictionary word. They have trademark on the phrase, the appearance, and it's branding.
If you own Rock and Roll Racing you're not defending your trademark if you C&D the NASCAR Racing dev team. You're just being dicks.

hmmm (1)

Troke (1612099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001214)

" The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary." I believe Apple owns every individual word in the trademark of their name.

Re:hmmm (3, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001398)

"Apple", "Computer", and "Inc."?

If we were to ask a magic eight-ball about this, it would probably suggest something along the lines of "My sources say no."

Re:hmmm (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002510)

They officially dropped the "Computer" from the name a few years ago. That said, I think they're suing an assortment of Android handset makers for their illicit use of the word "Inc.". Their case looks pretty strong, I have to say. I think they added the word "innovation" to the suit, so you know they're serious.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001404)

" The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary."

I believe Apple owns every individual word in the trademark of their name.

Then you're wrong , and probably didn't even stop to think about what you were saying. Apple have a trademark over the use of the word Apple in certain contexts but if you want to sell delicious apple pies then they'd better have something more than some retarded idea that they 'own' the word apple if they want to sue you. It took about a second of Googling to come up with a game called Bad Apple which I very much doubt is licensed by them. They don't 'own' the word and they don't claim to.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001480)

That's extra funny seeing as how they had a big scuffle with Apple records, hence it taking forever to get The Beatles on itunes.

Re:hmmm (1)

cwrinn (1282510) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001564)

Pretty sure the Beatles own the trademark for "Apple", and that this has actually been a legal case in the past WITH Apple Computers. Ironically, the agreement was that Apple Computers could never use their "Apple" in association with music... iTunes = whoops?

Re:hmmm (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001726)

Ironically, the agreement was that Apple Computers could never use their "Apple" in association with music... iTunes = whoops?
Reply to This Parent

Afaict it went something like

Apple records sued apple computer in a dubious (the two companies at the time were in totally different markets) trademark lawsuit
Apple computer settled with an agreement that they would keep out of the music buisness (which I guess made sense at the time)
Apple computer launched itunes
Apple records sued apple computer againclaiming that running itunes was a violation of their previous agreement
Apple computer settled by buying all rights to the apple trademark from apple records and then licensing them back to apple records. In the process apple computer renamed themselves to Apple inc. Soon after this settlement the beatles music was finally posted on itunes.

Re:hmmm (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002706)

Which is why Minecraft creator is screwed.

That was two completely different areas, one in computers and one in music, and there was still a trademark battle. Now we have video game Scrolls fighting video game The Elder Scrolls.

I think Bethesda has a case here. If I came out with a game called "Grand Theft" I guarantee you Rockstar would be all over me and I would lose. If Microsoft can own the word "Windows" on anything computer related then Bethesda can own Scrolls for anything video game related

lawyer trying... (0)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001216)

more likely their lawyer(s) trying to justify their employment.

Shit will hit the fan (3, Interesting)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001238)

once they act on the word "Arena" in relation to Zenimax-owned products Elder Scrolls: Arena and Quake III Arena...

As a non-gamer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001240)

... who has heard of 'The Elder Scrolls', seeing the game title 'Scrolls' did NOT make me think of the 'Elder Scrolls'.

Is this one of those scenarios where you'll only connect the 2 if you are a hardcore gamer? Isn't that kind of a requirement if it infringes? Must be obviously universally recognizable?

/$.02

Re:As a non-gamer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001308)

Personally I did think of the elder scrolls, but I'm a major fan of morrowind, so that was expected.

Re:As a non-gamer ... (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001902)

There's little connection.

Maybe if The Elder Scrolls series was colloquially known as "Scrolls" they might have a point. But it's always "Elder Scrolls" or "TES" and more often than not people name a specific game in the series (ie: Oblivion, Morrowind, Skyrim, etc)

This is just a case of lawyers doing their damnedest to protect their trademark by attacking everything in a 50 foot radius... and they end up making the whole company look like asses instead.

Re:As a non-gamer ... (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002466)

TES to the community and specific names for which one it is everywhere else. Other than the original, The Elder Scrolls: Arena.

If this works... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001294)

Coca Cola should send a letter to Pepsi Cola.

Re:If this works... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001326)

Yeah, and Wal Mart should eat K Mart and Stein Mart for lunch.

Slippery slope (1)

Uhyve (2143088) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001304)

Interesting, I guess Valusoft should be suing Bethesda regarding Prey 2, since apparently in 2001, they released a game called "Primal Prey". ... I really had to search for that one.

Re:Slippery slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001492)

Well, certainly Elder Scrolls II and Prey 2 impedes on the trademark of either Super Mario Brothers 2 or Final Fantasy II. If Daggerfall is not ripping off Cloak and Dagger, then maybe Scrolls should just be renamed to Scrolls Scrollsw00t. Winterscrolls....

That's it (1)

DemonGenius (2247652) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001346)

I'm copyrighting the work 'the'. I suspect by the end of the year, I'll have successfully owned 95% of the planet.

Re:That's it (1)

DemonGenius (2247652) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001368)

work --> word

Yes, I know, I've got work on the brain

Re:That's it (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001474)

That's silly. You should follow Bethesda's example and trademark the word, instead.

Re:That's it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001488)

Well... 95% of the english speaking parts, where trademark law is respected.

Granted, that's a very large portion of the U.S., Canada, England and Australia, and indeed the world. But don't get your hopes up about the rest.

Hmmm (1)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001458)

My first thought when people mention scrolls is Prince of Persia. Don't know why.

I can't imagine this will be upheld... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001466)

Seriously, you can't even use PART of a trademark now? "The Elder Scrolls" is quite different from "Scrolls."

That would be like saying you can't call a game "Blade" or "Mount" because of "Mount & Blade," or have a game called "Magic" because of "Might & Magic" ... or ...

Maybe this is just because they have to be proactive about keeping their trademark or something. I don't know. Stupid. :)

Re:I can't imagine this will be upheld... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001586)

Think I'm going to make a game and call it "The Nasty Wand Potions", and then wizards will be totally screwed since they won't be able to use scrolls, wands OR potions. Where is your god now?

Re:I can't imagine this will be upheld... (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001618)

Ask the Cleric.

Re:I can't imagine this will be upheld... (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002506)

Who needs a God when I've got my staff. Bangs it into the ground "You shall not pass."

Re:I can't imagine this will be upheld... (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001910)

Maybe this is just because they have to be proactive about keeping their trademark or something. I don't know. Stupid. :)

The problem is that afaict there is no penalty for overreaching when enforcing your trademark but there is a VERY significant penalty (loss of enforcability of the trademark) for nor reaching far enough.

Re:I can't imagine this will be upheld... (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001926)

That would be like saying you can't call a game "Blade" or "Mount" because of "Mount & Blade,"

I'm gonna have a game called Mountain Blade and Mytan Magic (or possibly He Rose of Mytan Magic).

makes sense.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001608)

Elder Scrolls is just later in the series:

Scrolls The Early Years.

Scrolls.

Elder Scrolls.

Re:makes sense.. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001982)

I thought the new sequel naming convention went:

The Elder Scrolls

2 Elder 2 Scroll

Elder Scrolls

Scrolls

Re:makes sense.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002074)

Let us not forget our fifth sequel:

5crolls

Should we start making a list? (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001610)

Let's see, we can't use "Age" or "Edge" [slashdot.org] , and now "Scrolls" is out as well.

Re:Should we start making a list? (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002216)

Or the Word 'Final'.

There was the game Final Fight. Then there's the series Final Fantasy. Actually Final Fight had several versions so it could be a 'series' too. So now, you have a Final Fight game and you have Final Fantasy. Both involve fighting. Confused which is which fellow gamers? Think not.

Hey I know (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001704)

Destroy Bethesda one of the last decent game producers. I mean hell, do they got stocks I can short?
WTF WTF all the way around. Pour a whiskey for me and a whiskey for you and bottoms up.

Why nobody is seriously using those old scrolls +Fravia had in the phplab.
http://fravia.2113.ch/phplab/scroll.htm Who needs f-ing google+

Re:Hey I know - The Elder MFM Drives!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002068)

Uh-oh

http://scrolls.blogspot.com/
God has a plan for the fucking scrolls.

By the way those old phplab scrolls felt like Copernic did, then the original copernic disappeared. Coincidence?

Elder than the Elder Scrolls (3, Informative)

BitterKraut (820348) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001836)

are Magnetic Scrolls: The Pawn, The Guild of Thieves, Jinxter, Corruption, Fish, Myth, Wonderland... loved these in the 80s/early 90s and still do. A 5,25" floppy disk, wrapped around a rolling pin, that's my earliest encounter with scrolls in video games.

Re:Elder than the Elder Scrolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002318)

are Magnetic Scrolls [..] that's my earliest encounter with scrolls in video games

Yeah, I remember them... but before *that* I remember the ZX81's "SCROLL" command in BASIC because the screen didn't automatically scroll when PRINTing reached the bottom (unlike most other computers) and ran out of space. Some games included that, so does it count? ;-)

Meanwhile... (1, Insightful)

devphaeton (695736) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001846)

....meanwhile, i have yet to see Notch get his panties in a bunch about Total Miner, the C- Minecraft knockoff coming to Xbocks Live in the near future. Yes I know the history of Minecraft, and I know that Notch borrowed a lot from Infiniminer. But this also goes to show that game 'concepts' aren't sacred.

I can see if Notch named his new game "Alder Scrolls" or "Newer Scrolls" or "Minerfall: The Buggiest Scrolls Evar" or "Iron Scroll: Mining The Oblivion" or anything else that would directly allude to another game. I don't know about Scrolls, but it sounds as if it isn't anything like any of the Elder Scrolls games. Games which btw aren't really about scrolls in particular.

Hmm...

Shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001866)

Zenimax is probably becoming a trademark/copyright bully. They had the JavaScript Doom port DMCA'd a few months ago, even though it was based on the original GPL source release and using the shareware IWAD (distributed by id Software themselves on their FTP site). I hope that Bethesda and id Software raise hell over this stuff and that it stops, because this is really damaging the reputation of some of the best game developers in the business. Imagine all the people who won't buy games from Zenimax subsidiaries if this keeps up....

Wait - what happens if Notch succeeds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37001896)

...in trademarking "Scrolls".

Then could he (in theory) go to Bethesda and arm wrestle them for using HIS newly granted trademark?

"Hey, I notice you have the title The Elder Scrolls... since I own Scrolls, I demand you cease and desist".

Not saying Notch would do that - he's a normal/reasonable guy. But Bethesda's action might be the legally correct action in order to protect themselves from Notch's attempt to own a broad word.

hello lawyers, meet internet (3, Interesting)

wfmcwalter (124904) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001932)

Technology companies are pretty good about properly integrating their marketing and public relations efforts into the business proper. So if they need to do a safety recall the PR people are involved in the process; a decent PR guy can turn "the XYZ-5000 sprays customers with burning acid" recall into "XYZ really cares about its customers, and as a lovely fluffy precaution we're fixing all our XYZ-5000s, even though most of them are perfectly super and don't experience moderate thermal variances". Engineering, QA, customer relations, finance - every department doesn't get to communicate with the public (or do anything that's obviously going to end up being public) without someone in PR there to make sure the message is put out right.

Legal departments, by dint of (often broken) corporate org-trees are a notable exception to this. When they see a problem, they fix it the lawyer way, and the rest of the company never knows until after the fact. In olden times of yore stuff like this was trivia between one legal office and another, and only the most nebbish of corporate historian ever know why a product changed its name or wasn't orange coloured any more. So the lawyers behaved as they always did, striking as quickly and as hard as they could, writing letters as outlandishly vitriolic and court pleadings as wildly exaggerated as they felt they could get away with, knowing that things would stay on the downlow and whatever happened only the outcome would matter to anyone.

They didn't consider that, if you sent someone a demand letter, the first thing they'd do is tweet about it to their entire customer base (which turns out to be a big proportion of your customer base too), and post the letter (with all its wild and crazy claims) on the internet, for everyone to point and laugh at. If it's the all-too-common shot across the bows (rather than a serious attempt) you risk looking like a rather unhinged bully.

Like it or not (and the lawyers don't like it, and decorate their broadsides with all kinds of "if you publish this letter we'll sue to for that too" stuff) everything anyone in the corporation does reflects on the whole outfit. The PR folks should be in on the ground floor with anything like this. They don't get to veto every lawsuit or every letter, but they can put a choke-hold on the stupid. Right now Zenimax's PR guy has his head in his hands; I'll bet the first thing he knew about the whole affair was when he read it online, and he'll spend next week fighting fires and soothing angry faces. Notch probably won't change the name, but if he does that's just another news cycle of bad PR for Zenimax.

ironic (1)

kirkb (158552) | more than 3 years ago | (#37001988)

The first place I'd heard about Skyrim and how cool it's going to be was from Notch himself, months ago.

lawyers can go eat a poop sandwich.

Nothing to See Here. Move Along. (3, Interesting)

skine (1524819) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002164)

The first rule of having a trademark is "don't lose your trademark." This is done by defending it against every potential threat, no matter how tenuous the connection.

Essentially, if you don't defend yourself, then your trademark is automatically weakened.

For example, if your trademark is for a video game called "Elder Scrolls," and you allow a game called "Scrolls," to be published unchecked, then you've effectively stated that the word "Scrolls," and titles including that word, are all acceptable, and cannot be challenged by trademark.

In the end, Zenimax either maintains their current position by forcing Notch to back down, or their trademark is more clearly defined, including restrictions on what Notch can call this and its sequels (if any).

Thus the only losing move is not to play.

Re:Nothing to See Here. Move Along. (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002728)

For example, if your trademark is for a video game called "Elder Scrolls," and you allow a game called "Scrolls," to be published unchecked, then you've effectively stated that the word "Scrolls," and titles including that word, are all acceptable, and cannot be challenged by trademark.

Which is already the case - Bethseda has a trademark on "Elder Scrolls", not "all games with Scroll in the tite". They cannot legally veto other game titles simply because they have a word in common. All they can do is bluster and send threatening letters that would be blown away in court. "Scrolls" is not their trademark, they have no obligation to attack it, and it doesn't weaken "Elder Scrolls" in the slightest. Now, if they were threatening a game called "Eldest Scrolls", or "Ancient Scrolls" they might have a case - the similarity is such that there's a much greater chance of one being confused with the other.

This will be retracted (4, Interesting)

Tridus (79566) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002204)

Every now and then we see lawyers for a company do silly things like this. Lawyers live in their own world, nearly wholly disconnected from ours. In their world, they send lots of letters on anything that even remotely might kind of sorta maybe be in the same ballpark as their trademark.

In the real world, marketing sees the reaction to that. When it makes news (like this case), marketing goes to the CEO and says "hey legal is causing us grief." The CEO then tells legal to play nice in this case. Particularly since if they actually tried to challenge this in court they'd get laughed at.

So, publicity will solve this one.

More like no case (2)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002262)

It should also be pointed out that the several trademark registries allowed Mojang to register Scrolls months ago. Including US and Sweden (registering it as an EU trademark).

Thier just upset that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37002308)

the same lawyers recommended their name be Bethesda.

Brand Name (1)

Databass (254179) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002504)

I'm with Notch on the idea that Elder Scrolls really doesn't have a lot of scroll-based IP in it nor the right to own single words, but more importantly:

Of all the company names Notch could pick to epitomize what he and Minecraft are about, why "Scrolls"? That doesn't add any brand value. Honestly, he himself has ten times the brand recognition of any company name he could make. He could make his company "NotchCo" or "Notch's Minecraft Company" and get 100x the name recognition.

"Scrolls Studios, LLC? The hell is that?"
"It's the company Notch founded, that made Minecraft."
"Oh! Why didn't you just SAY so?"

Re:Brand Name (1)

Thalagyrt (851883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002702)

Uhhhh? The company's called Mojang. Scrolls is another game they're working on. 3 seconds with Google would have told you that and spared you however long you wasted writing that up. :|

Re:Brand Name (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002762)

or just look up the Scroll trademark application and it would say it's registered to Mojang AB.

Talk about disrepectful to the gamers. (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37002822)

First, someone inform these tools that gamers aren't so retarded to not know the difference. We are computer gamers, not console gamers, we aren't playing Pogs, we aren't completely retarded. Secondly, the Minecraft guy is small potatoes, he's the little guy, the underdog, and busting his balls is a great publicity stunt to paint yourself as being a complete dick. I don't like buying games from people who act like dicks. Why? Because being a dick is a habit, and how long does it take for them to be dicks with me if I do business with them.

Besides, how come some game company with a half ounce of brains hasn't snapped this guy up and put him on their dev team?

Now for something completely different; Minecraft PvP to me is awesome. It's as polished as that last turd I dropped off, but the concept/game play of it has potential to be incredibly brutal and nerve wracking. The brutality of it reminds me of Darktide, but only crueler somehow if that is possible. It's not for pussies. It needs the polish of a slick FPS and the rich character development of a RPG, make it MMO, and PVP and you would make orgasmic money. Multiple orgasmic money. You know I am right.

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