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Mojang wins interim injunction in Scrolls case

Tue 18 Oct 2011 7:45am GMT / 3:45am EDT / 12:45am PDT
LegalDevelopment

Court sides with Minecraft developer in the short term

Bethesda Softworks

The Bethesda Softworks division, founded in 1986, has a long history of success as a developer and publisher...

bethsoft.com

Minecraft maker Mojang has won a temporary injunction against Skyrim publisher Bethesda and parent company ZeniMax for the use of the name "Scrolls."

ZeniMax is taking legal action against Mojang for use of the word, which it claims infringes its copyright on the Elder Scrolls RPG series. Mojang's forthcoming Scrolls game is a strategic card game that's been in development for five years.

"We won the interim injunction! We can keep using the name "Scrolls". ZeniMax/Bethesda can still appeal the ruling, but I'm very happy," said Markus Persson, founder of Swedish studio Mojang.

The interim injunction lets Mojang use the name until the case is taken further by Bethesda.

17 Comments

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
I'll be very interested to see how this all plays out.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Harrison Smith Studying Games and Graphics Programming, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

75 4 0.1
I read that the only reason that ZeniMax took legal action in the first place was to stop this rule that if they dont defend it no matter what it opens others to use it because they are no longer defending it. So when they have to go against something like the Older Scrolls: Redemption which is a open world RPG, they dont run into the argument that "But the Scrolls game was allowed, why not ours". Its a stupid rule but makes sense overall, its just too bad that there isn't a way to give consent without giving away the copyright. Honestly if ZeniMax had a choice they wouldn't dare go up against Notch and Minecraft Followers especially when they still make a pretty penny on the PC still. Also I think Markus is trying to twist public opinion into thinking its the little guy taken on the big guys, a little guy who could of very much made more profit then ZeniMax and he would of clearly knew that "Scrolls" would conflict in some way with the Elder Scrolls considering they are both RPG's even if its a card game.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Edward Buffery Pre-production Manager

149 96 0.6
I would disagree that the phrase 'Elder Scrolls' is one that pops into peoples' minds whenever they hear the word scrolls, or that Markus would definitely have thought of it. I've liked all the games in the series, but in my experience "The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind" was always referred to simply as Morrowind and the same for Oblivion, without the small print. To me, the phrase "The Elder Scrolls" relates to PC only games from around 10-15 years ago, most of which were never heard of nor played by my predominantly console gaming peers.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Lucien Parsons Consultant

4 0 0.0
Harrison: There is an easy way for Zeni to protect their trademark rights without going to court. All they would have to do is get Notch to agree to a contract giving him the 'rights' to use the name for this game. It would be for an undisclosed sum (say $1 - after they buy dinner) and they would then keep the copyright, actually establish precedent of people paying for the rights to use the name (basically worthless, but a good club against non-legal types), and not piss off the Minecraft fans.

Either they just don't want this game out for some reason, they want the publicity (people used to say, 'there's no such thing as bad press'), or there's something they want from Mojang and think that tying them up in legal tape is a way to get it. The only downside for Zeni is legal costs, and they are owned and run by lawyers, so they are already paying for that.

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Would someone remind me again where copyright comes in to this trademark dispute?

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Peter Dwyer software engineer, openbet

24 0 0.0
The idea that they need to sue anyone using any part of the name Elder Scrolls in a game title is a pure nonsense and the reason they lost this initial round. It would be like sueing a game called Elder because it may be confused with the game elder scrolls.

No judge who is even vaguely awake during the case is going to side with Zeni or Bethesda.

I think the real problem is that as companies grow they tend to forget reality exists and think that their lawyers are acting in any way in their best interests and not just to get paid extra.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Sergei Klimov Director of Publishing & Business Development, Snowbird Studios

18 0 0.0
Trademark law and copyright law are two different beasts. Having said that much, the approach of the matter from ZMX leaves much to be desired - there's not a lot of goodwill that we are seeing, not so much friendliness, just a pretty tank-like approach.

The same actually happened during E3 2011 when a smaller studio played a joke with Skyrim's poster, using a similar but very much laughable image with their own game. Bethesda did not get the joke and was bullish to the core. So I'm not buying the whole "we just had to kill those kids" argument.

I've seen stronger and better known studios and IP owners behave more reasonably, and with better results. The resolution of this dispute by ZMX was set on the wrong course by ZMX's management/counsel and thank gods that Markus has enough $$ to defend properly.

Any of the smaller studios may find themselves in a similar situation, and setting the case straight is important to all of us. Say, Captain America - would that not be argued that this prohibits the use of any kind of Captain game? Or Commander Keen, wasn't it infringing any other Commander properties out there? If ZMX is allowed to win, we'll end up losing almost all games vocabulary to larger litigious companies.

Posted:3 years ago

#7
I thought this whole thing was over mojang trying to trademark the word "scrolls" not their using it?

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos

112 0 0.0
"Scrolls" is a generic. The suit is stupid.

Markus Persson is a little one-man shop who struggled for years to get his game visions out the door.

I am THRILLED that the courts gave Bethesda a kick in the teeth. The deserve it, and more.

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Sergei Klimov Director of Publishing & Business Development, Snowbird Studios

18 0 0.0
@ Sebastian, if Mojang would try to trademark SCROLLS, ZMX would not even come into the picture - the trademark office would simply tell them that the word is too generic, and they'll have to find more ways to make it unique enough to warrant registration.

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos

112 0 0.0
"Scrolls" is a generic. The suit is stupid.

(Edit: Simultaneous posts @Sergei, 100% agree)

Markus Persson is a little one-man shop who struggled for years to get his game visions out the door.

I am THRILLED that the courts gave Bethesda a kick in the teeth. The deserve it, and more.

Oh, and if you read the coverage, you will see that as soon as Markus discovered there was a question he offered to drop his request for Trademark. Bethesda sued him anyway.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 18th October 2011 4:46pm

Posted:3 years ago

#11

John Tearle Founder, CEO, Flix Interactive

17 10 0.6
I bet that Bethesda are regretting not taking up the offer of a "Quake-off" now... (Sorry - someone had to say it!)

Actually guys - I think you may be wrong there - many words are generically trademarked these days, just go onto the US TM site and have a simple search - it's stupid but true. Trust me, through bitter experience, I know.

Although I am genuinely impartial in this case, I wonder if the case of Edge Vs EA (Mirrors Edge), will act as a president for this case? The one thing with trademarking is the fact that people can misconstrue one product as being linked to another unrelated product which then means that others could ride off your success, take sales away from your product, damage the brand of your product through association etc... Point being - The Scrolls website has a very fantasy theme and so do all of the Elder Scrolls games, Mirrors Edge and Edge games/magazine are very different, so I think it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

I still wish Bethesda had agreed to the Quake-off terms - that would have been a very interesting president to set and a great (old-school/80's B movie) way of settling things.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Tearle on 18th October 2011 4:56pm

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Paul Darcy Graphics designer

2 0 0.0
Didn't someone copywrite the word edge though? Think it all kicked off with mirrors edge or something.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Paul Gheran Scrum Master

123 27 0.2
President - Obama (wiki)
precedent - any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations (dictionary.com)

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Tom Plunket

8 1 0.1
In what jurisdiction was this injunction awarded? Mojang's trademark application was denied in the US, Zenimax is filing suit in Sweden, and maybe there's action elsewhere that I don't know about?

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Abel Oroz Art Director / Artist

16 0 0.0
Bethesda should have been sued for the use of the word "Rage" in the title of a game, since Atari released Primal Rage in 1994.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Abel Oroz on 18th October 2011 7:49pm

Posted:3 years ago

#16

Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ

199 72 0.4
At the last minute, he'll change the name to "RedGuard of Sodan: Fallout of the Elder Lords of Cthulhu".

Garner 4 trillion hits from news sites.

Then admit, "Actually I always wanted to call it Snovelly Snook. Psych!"

And release it as that.

Can't wait to play Snovelly Snook!

Posted:3 years ago

#17

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