The Edge Case: Indies Rally To Raise Copyfight Awareness

langdell.pngThe story of Tim Langdell's relentless and darkly fascinating trademark fight against any and all users of the name 'Edge' has been quietly storming under the surface for the better part of this year. In a nutshell: Langdell's Edge Games, a UK-based publisher in the earliest days of home computer games, has tirelessly struggled to maintain ownership over the word against any would-be competitor, regardless of discipline, growing more convoluted and ludicrous the farther down the rabbit hole you go (the Chaos Edge blog is the most damning at documenting just how bizarre it's become). edgetitlescreen.jpgFor nearly two decades, it seemed to work. Edge Games successfully struck settlements with movie and comic book companies, further strengthening his grip on the four-letter word, but then Langdell attempted to swat down what should have been his easiest target: tiny French indie developer Mobigame, and their iPhone debut, titled, of course, Edge (pictured left). After successfully managing to get the game removed from the App Store, Langdell butted up against what could prove to be his downfall: the collective, unshakable 'might' of the indie game community, who've coalesced around the Mobigame struggle and mounted reams of evidence and circumstantial quotes about Langdell's business practices in his early days, seeking to shred the paper tiger and expose what little claim Edge Games has over the trademark. Now with the legal might of no less than Electronic Arts behind them (who recently filed this scathing suit against Edge Games after Langdell seemed to be targeting EA's Mirror's Edge, using much of the evidence gathered by the indies), and with Edge Games now having successfully convinced Apple to remove Killer Edge Racing from the App Store, the indie community has served its latest sardonic volley against Langdell, rallying together to show support for 'the fallen' by incorporating the name into their own games. Below, then, a gallery of all the participants' parodies. Whether the 'troll day' has any effect other than situation-awareness and to what end the community will take its efforts remains to be seen, but either way it's a heartening reminder of the size and solidarity of the indie games movement.
edgy.jpg Derek Yu modifies his Spelunky with its new name, and a pixel-caricature of Edge Games' owner. edgeliss.jpg Steph Thirion's iPhone debut Eliss gains an added dimension to give the game more, well, edges. edgeform.jpg Effing Hail designer Greg Wohlwend and Closure creator Tyler Glaiel introduce their latest work and company name. crittercredge.jpg Recently featured Toronto dev Capybara announce a title switch for their game previously known as Critter Crunch. atomicedge.jpg Also recently featured Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman unveils the largest of the efforts: a new website for Atomic Edge Games, pitch perfectly capturing the spirit of Langdell's amateur site-development skills, and following suit by renaming his games and using, as does Langdell, assets from pre-existing works to promote them. edgeitmoves.jpg Austria's Broken Rules (now to be known as Broken Edge) converts their PC/soon-to-be WiiWare game And Yet It Moves to its new name. Edgeles.jpg Mike Kasprzak modifies his iPhone debut game Smiles down to the level of each mode. space3.jpg Art game master Messhof announces his latest work. edgefeckless.jpg Dejobaan take their already unlikely named game AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to new heights. FEDGE.jpg And finally, Fez creators Polytron unveil their decision to re-introduce their game as Fedge. To learn more about the Edge Games vs. The World efforts, visit the Chaos Edge blog, TIGSource's roundup of the ongoing story, and Simon Parkin's Eurogamer feature laying out just how this all began.

25

  1. Kudos to the indie studios trying to “stick it to the man” as it were. I hope they succeed. This reminds me of other sue happy companies (Hansen Beverage, and Monster Cable) who seem willing to sue the pants off anyone who can’t put up the same legal muscle. I hate people who abuse the system like this.

  2. The funny thing about trademark law is, the more he defends his trademark the less it becomes a generic word. The less it becomes a generic word, the more of a case he has for future defenses. And so on.

  3. What an incredible douche! Patent and Trademark Trolls are just a few steps away from politicians on my despise-o-meter.

  4. Let’s also not forget the purpose of trademark law. Unlike copyright, it’s not a matter of “I thought of it, so I get to use it however I want,” but rather, it’s a consumer protection: “We don’t want poor people being duped into thinking they bought an Apple iPhone when they really bought a substandard clone, so we’ll sue people who try to be sneaky.”

    I can’t imagine anybody who bought Mirror’s Edge did so because they thought it was made by Edge Games. In fact, I doubt many people even knew who Edge Games was until this whole fiasco started — indeed, the name has now become popular enough that it might require trademark protection. But it certainly didn’t need protection before — it had no products to be confused with and no reputation to lean on.

    If you want a great example, look for a company named Paragon Manufacturing. Or distribution. Or lawn care. Yes, that’s right, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of companies whose name is Paragon. It certainly doesn’t cause trademark issues.

    Langdell’s only weapon is the inability for most indies to put up with a court battle. Even if Langdell couldn’t bring it to court, the very threat would cause many people to settle (see the RIAA/MPAA lawsuits).

    I hope EA has a hey-day with him. Anybody willing to abuse the system deserves to feel its wraith come back on them.

  5. Sometimes I wish we all lived in Russia, where vodka and contract killings are at bargain prices.

    This guy seriously deserves to die.

  6. There’s a little tiff going on right now about Google’s Go language. Seems a Mr. McCabe wrote an obscure little language called Go! many years ago, and has entered bug report #9 against the language, asking Google to rename the language. Many people have rallied behind him — if not for the sake of his claim, for the amusement at Google not Googling the language name — and have asked Google to change the name to “Issue 9”.

  7. I like how if you look at the web site for the “Edge Racers” game (soon to be released in September), at about 7 seconds in to the video you see a logo that is an obvious rip off of IBM.

    http://www.edge-racers.com/

    Or the what happens when you hit the “games” button the the Edge website: you get a non copy and pasteable list of various games for the Commodore 64 and “ZX Spectrum”.

    Or this, supposedly from an old wikipedia page: “prior to entering the nascent game industry, Langdell had two quite different careers: first as an astrophysicist and then as a clinical psychologist where he used his training as a physical scientist to do some of the first computer-based research into Autism using eye tracking and face perception techniques.”

    Apparently he is faculty at some online university, that looks to be about as reputable as he is:

    http://tr.im/ERGs

    Or this, from a description of the game Mythora: “Mythora is an older product in our range, launched in 2004. It does not currently have up to date video or sound card drivers and thus may not work on all current PC systems.”

    Who the hell ever heard of a game containing drivers in the first place?

    And, if Mythora is “an older product in [their] range,” published in 2004, doesn’t that pretty much demolish their 30 year old software company claim? ;)

    I’m not a big law and order type, but there is a name for this: criminal fraud, and he’s asking and deserving of about five years in federal prison.

    I have very little sympathy for those who use the threat of government power to harass and intimidate others.

  8. this article interests me largely because I work for one of the many companies called ‘edge’, a large propoortion of which probably pre-date him. I’m quite certain the word on its own is too common in australia to maintain a trademark, so we should be safe

    but we do have huge letters spelling out ‘edge’ on the building, the company website, the foyer, all our cars, and hundreds of thousands of business cards. I’m sure he can find us if he wants to

  9. The more you try to bury something, the more people are going to want to talk about it… Gotta hand it to those edgy indies!

  10. @ #15 zyodei
    National University appears to be a legitimate university. At the very least, they have quite a few physical campuses scattered around California.

  11. As much as I like Spelunky, I’ve heard Yu is in talks wih Microsoft to make an XBLA version. I know he’d have to be stupid to throw that back in their face but MS is one of the vanguards of the wrong side of the “copyfight” war.

  12. What we need next is a Flash-based web game: Lawyer’s Edge, a basic ‘interactive documentary’ in which you play Tim Langdell, start off with a piddling bit of cash, and utilize a toolkit of different legal strategies to coerce a small fortune out of so-call trademark infringers as they use the word ‘edge’ throughout the years.

  13. Edge Games seem to be developing a game called “mirrors” maybe they are gonna go after mirror’s edge after all. I mean cmon. Mirrors! by Edge games, thats close enoug for a lawsuit right? hahahahaha

  14. Not only are us indies ragging against Langdell, but us devs in the Boston community (especially the IGDA members) are taking a stance against him.

  15. I’m embarrassed to say I knew Tim Langdell. I was attending a video game production summer camp kind of thing at USC, and they chose him to be our instructor!

    How did he instruct us in the arts of video game production? With some kind of incoherent speech about design process and 40 WoW beta subscriptions he conned Blizzard out of.

Comments are closed.