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King no longer claims to own "candy," still claims it owns "saga"

King Games, makers of Candy Crush, have backed down from their insane campaign to trademark the use of "Candy" in connection with games, a gambit that brought them ridicule and opprobrium (for example, a game jam where all the games made use of "candy"), not least because the company bullied competitors who had created candy-themed games years before Candy Crush came to market. However, the company still asserts a trademark over the use of the word "saga" in connection with games, and is trying to shut down The Banner Saga. Cory 21

Candy Quest: a text-adventure in defiance of the stupid Candy Crush trademark

Inspired by the news that King.com -- creators of the game "Candy Crush" -- had received a trademark on the use of the words "candy" and "saga" in connection with video games (and other things) and were using it to censor its competition, Michael Brough's created a fun -- and trenchant -- text-adventure called Candy Quest 3: Edge of Sweetness. It's part of The Candy Jam, an indie game-jam created entirely to troll the butthead corporate overlords at King.com.

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BSA to Hacker Scouts: change your name or be sued


The Hacker Scouts is an organization "that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education, skill building and community engagement with the aspiration to help our children develop skills in the areas they are truly interested in, abilities that would allow them to dream big and create big." They filed for a trademark on the name "Hacker Scouts" and got a legal threat from lawyers for the Boy Scouts of America. After a protracted back-and-forth by mail, the Hacker Scouts have gone public, because the BSA won't soften its position: call yourselves the ____________ Scouts, and we'll sue.

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Independent Brewers United says they own sixes and nines


Magic Hat IP, LLC and Independent Brewers United Corporation filed a remarkably spurious trademark lawsuit against West Sixth Brewery in Lexington, KY. Ben sez:

The suit alleges that West Sixth's own logo, which is a "6" within a circle, infringes upon its trademarked "#9" mark and is "directing Defendant West Sixth to account for and to pay over to Magic Hat all profits realized by West Sixth as a result of its use of the 6 Marks, its infringement of MagicHat's trademarks and trade dress, and its acts of unfair competition" as part of the awards it seeks from this suit.

Magic Hat is owned by North American Breweries, a large, multinational corporation that produces and imports several different brands of beer. West Sixth, on the other hand, is a local startup started about a year ago that strives to give back to its own community through financial donations, environmental stewardship, and community activities, many of which are free for attendees.

Brewer Magic Hat files federal lawsuit against West Sixth Brewing

Games Workshop trademark bullying goes thermonuclear: now they say you can't use "space marine" in science fiction

For years, there have been stories about Games Workshop being trademark bullies and sending threats to people who use the term "space marine" in connection with games. But now that they've started publishing ebooks, Games Workshop has begun to assert a trademark on the generic, widely used, very old term "space marine" in connection with science fiction literature.

MCA Hogarth, an author who has published several novels in ebook form, has had her book "Spots the Space Marine" taken down on Amazon in response to a legal threat from Games Workshop. She could conceivably fight the trademark claim, but that would cost (a lot) of money, which she doesn't have.

I used to own a registered trademark. I understand the legal obligations of trademark holders to protect their IP. A Games Workshop trademark of the term “Adeptus Astartes” is completely understandable. But they’ve chosen instead to co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success. Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading. I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith’s space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else’s, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else.

At this point I’m not sure what course to take. I interviewed five lawyers and all of them were willing to take the case, but barring the arrival of a lawyer willing to work pro bono, the costs of beginning legal action start at $2000 and climb into the five-figure realm when it becomes a formal lawsuit. Many of you don’t know me, so you don’t know that I write a business column/web comic for artists; wearing my business hat, it’s hard to countenance putting so much time and energy into saving a novel that hasn’t earned enough to justify it. But this isn’t just about Spots. It’s about science fiction’s loss of one of its foundational tropes.

I have very little free time and very little money. But if enough people show up to this fight, I’ll give what I can to serve that trust. And if the response doesn’t equal the level of support I would need, then I still thank you for your help and your well wishes. For now, step one is to talk about this. Pass it on to your favorite news source. Tell your favorite authors or writers’ organizations. To move forward, we need interest. Let’s generate some interest.

A few important notes:

* Amazon didn't have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don't apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.

* Games Workshop's strategy is to make "space marine" less generic by launching high profile, bullying attacks on everyone who uses it, so that there will come a day when people hearing the phrase immediately conclude that it must be related to Games Workshop, because everyone know what colossal dicks they are whenever anyone else uses the phrase

* Trademarks only apply to commercial works. You can and should use "space marine" in your everyday speech, fanfic, tweets and so on. For one thing, it will undermine Games Workshop's attempts to homestead our common language.

In the Future, All Space Marines Will Be Warhammer 40K Space Marines (Thanks to everyone who sent this in)

Jack Daniel's has a very nice trademark lawyer


Patrick Wensink has posted a very nice and friendly cease-and-desist letter from Christy Susman, a Jack Daniel's company's trademark lawyer, who were concerned about the cover on his book Broken Piano for President. The JD lawyers offered to help pay for a new print run.

The Whiskey Rebellion. (Thanks, Leah!)

Black-light acrobats Fighting Gravity send trademark threat over unrelated fantasy novel called "Fighting Gravity"

That Neil Guy sez, "Writer Leah Petersen received a Cease and Desist notice. Seems the title of her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, is also the name of a live performance group that appeared on America's Got Talent. As Leah writes on her blog, the claim is that 'the title of my science fiction novel about a couple of teenage guys in a romantic relationship is an infringement on the trademark for their black-light, gravity-defying illusion performance group.' Now she gets to pay for a lawyer. Lucky her."

Update: And it's off: "Fighting Gravity To Leah Peterson and her fans: Disregard the cease and desist letter that was issued by our lawyers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people have taken that too far and we have had to deal with it. By no means is Leah Peterson one of those people, our lawyers were just doing their jobs and trying to protect our name and trademark. We wish the best for Leah and hope her book becomes a great success! " Cory

Chick-Fil-A threatens guy who made "Eat More Kale" shirts; he fights back with a Kickstarter documentary

Bo sells a t-shirt that says "Eat More Kale" from his home in rural Vermont. Titanic chicken sandwich chain Chick-Fil-A claims that this shirt infringes on their trademark for the slogan "Eat Mor (sic) Chikin' (sic)." They've demanded that Bo shut down and turn over his website to them. Rather than capitulate, Bo is making a defiant documentary about his refusal, and he's raising funds on Kickstarter.

Of course, I might not win --- the odds are against me. All over the country 'trademark bullies,' large corporations that bully small businesses over alleged claims of trademark infringement, are legally harassing small businesses and wearing them down with repeated lawsuits and appeals. In the face of overwhelming legal bills, most small businesses just give up.

This is more than just plain wrong: it's un-American.

By helping make this documentary I want to shine a light on this issue, my battle, and other trademark bullies, too. If I win, it's a great story; if I lose, it's a sad story. Either way, Jim and I think it's a story worth telling.

It seems to me that there shouldn't be any valid trademark claim here. Leaving aside the spelling issue, the graphic presentation of "Eat More Kale" is very different from "Eat mor chikin." The phrase "Eat more," is pretty generic, and is unlikely to result in confusion. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm inclined to think that if Bo can stay in the fight long enough -- that is, if they don't outspend him into oblivion -- he stands a chance of winning.

A Defiant Dude by James Lantz and Eat More Kale guy — Kickstarter

Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen pay to save The Hobbit pub from trademark trolls

You've probably heard that an old pub called The Hobbit in Southampton is under threat from the film company that controls the licensing for the Tolkien canon. After a public outcry, the company agreed to sell the pub a license to go on using the name it has had for decades. Stephen Fry and Ian McKellan -- who are both in the Hobbit movie (Fry is in NZ right now, shooting) -- decided that this was stupid, so they've paid the license fee themselves.

She said: "I had a telephone call on Saturday evening, while we were trading, from Stephen Fry's business partner and manager. That's when he told me.

"I was very shocked.

"They've said as soon as they finish filming they would like to come down and visit the pub."

...Sir Ian, who plays Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films, described the film company's actions as "unnecessary pettiness" and Fry said it was "self-defeating bullying".

Hobbit pub copyright row: Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen to pay licence (via Techdirt)

Update: Simon Phipps writes, "The Hobbit is one of my locals, and I thought you'd like some background. I wrote about the case here. While the pub has existed for a long time, The Hobbit started opportunistically abusing their movie-related paraphernalia a while back and has been trading on it for years without seeking permission - presumably because someone there knew they'd never get it. They could have commissioned their own artwork but they didn't. Far from it being a case of a bully acting improperly, I think actually Zaentz acted uncharacteristically well here. This wasn't about the pub calling itself 'The Hobbit' primarily, it was about ripping off movie stills and using them for advertising. They challenged that abuse and then offered an amazingly easy settlement. Meanwhile, instead of any sign of a mea culpa, some people have been wildly slandering Zaentz. Given how much the law sucks and is being weaponised, I think we should be encouraging previously abusive companies like Zaentz to act this generously in future."

Oil company changes its name to "Pixar"

A Canadian oil company called Paramount Resources has changed its name to Pixar. Seriously.

Previously known as Paramount Resources, I guess the executives got tired of being named after one of Hollywood’s has-been brands. As far as I can tell, this is not a joke, there’s even a serious sounding press release composed without a hint of irony. It’s being reported in the wider media as well.

Oil Company renames itself Pixar (Thanks, John!)

Minecraft creator challenges trademark belligerents to winner-take-all Quake deathmatch

Notch, the game developer who struck gold with his multimillion-dollar bestselling low-rez indiegame Minecraft, has a novel proposal for resolving the stupid trademark threats he's been receiving from Bethesda games, who are upset that he's working on a game called "Scrolls" (Bethesda makes a game called "Elder Scrolls"). Rather than giving a whack of dough to lawyers to settle this, Notch has challenged Bethesda's devs to a three-on-three Quake 3 blood match, top fragger take all.
I challenge Bethesda to a game of Quake 3. Three of our best warriors against three of your best warriors. We select one level, you select the other, we randomize the order. 20 minute matches, highest total frag count per team across both levels wins.

If we win, you drop the lawsuit.

If you win, we will change the name of Scrolls to something you’re fine with.

Regardless of the outcome, we could still have a small text somewhere saying our game is not related to your game series in any way, if you wish.

I am serious, by the way.

Hey, Bethesda! Let’s settle this! (Thanks Fipi Lele!)

(Image: QuakeLive.jpg, Wikimedia Commons/Timothee Besset)

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Who Captured Seal Team Six After Their Mission?!

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China's shonky Disneyland-a-like park closed


A Disneyland look-a-like theme park outside of Beijing called Shijingshan has been shut down by Chinese authorities, apparently as a consequence of the deal to open a Disneyland Shanghai park. Shijingshan sported some intensely crappy rides and attractions that seemed to have been designed by making wild guesses about the equivalent rides in the actual Disney parks (amusingly, the "American Adventure" ride was a haunted house).

Shijingshan management claim that they aren't copying Disney, merely taking their inspiration from the same sources. It's an interesting example of the difference between copyright and trademark; from the particulars I can see online, I don't think there's much merit to a copyright claim here -- though there are a few examples where there are clear derivative works, most of the design is merely generically derived from public domain sources such as castles and fairy tale characters. On the other had, there's a very strong trademark case here, since the use of distinctive ride-names and such seem deliberately chosen to confuse customers about the nature and origin of the park's designs.

Deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said: "The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different."

"We do not have any agreements with Disney."

Despite the striking similarities to foreign characters, Yin insisted the Beijing park's are all locally designed.

"Take our Cinderella as an example. The face of Disney's Cinderella face is European, but ours is a Chinese. She looks like a young Chinese country girl," he said.

Fake Disney Theme Park in China forced to Close (The Disney Blog)

'Fake' Disney park faces closure (Metro.co.uk)

(Image: DSCF6882, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from maxview's photostream)

Help plucky UK environmentalists defend themselves from ginormous US corporate bully

Jim from the Open Rights Group sez, "We are asking people to donate a few quid or dollars to help http://eco-labs.org, a small artist environmental NGO, defend their use of their domain from a spurious claim from http://www.ecolab.com the multi-billion dollar cleaning business. These plucky Brits are willing do defend their use, which is not confusing and was used prior to the registration of the UK trademark, but need about £800 ($1300) to defend themselves at .org - please help!"

Ad agency to radicals: "We own radical media(TM)"

Jim from the Open Rights Group sez, "Activists in the UK organising a 'Radical media conference' have been told by ad agency @radicalmedia that they cannot organise a 'radical media' conference. The agency claims trademark infringement. As the activists say, 'We Make Radical Media, You Make Adverts'."