Over on Offworld, our Brandon has the story of plucky indiegame publisher Mobigame and their battle with UK
games magazine trademark holder who registered "Edge," who argues that releasing a platformer game also called "Edge" is a violation of his trademark [Thanks to Tom Armitage for setting me straight on this]. This is a neat illustration of the problem of lumping trademark and copyright together under the banner of "intellectual property." Copyright confers the exclusive right to control copying; trademark is the right to sue people who might mislead your customers, tricking them into thinking that a product that looks like yours came from you. It's not an exclusive right at all. Trademark holders don't "own" words — they have the right to stop people from using words in a fraudulent manner.
So here's the question: would the average punter off the streets in the UK who stumbled across a copy of Mobipocket's "Edge" think, "Oh look, that
games magazine old company that used to also publish software in the 1980s has done a new game"? I'm pretty sure the answer is no. Our household's a good test case: I'm not much of a gamer, but I know about Edge. My wife, on the other hand, is a games professional who played Quake for England on the national team. Neither of us have any trouble distinguishing Mobipocket's "Edge" from "Edge," the magazine ancient software company. Edge Magazine The trademark holder for Edge has a long and shameful history of threatening companies over its trademark, treating the word "Edge" as its property. Finally, someone is standing up for the public's right to have products and services called "Edge" in the marketplace.
Update: With apologies to Edge Magazine for confusing them with the trademark holder!
A short list of the companies that have apparently settled with Langdell and licensed the name or otherwise stepped out of his way include UK magazine Edge, Namco — whose Soul Edge game would be released in the west as Soul Blade, 1997 Anthony Hopkins movie The Edge, Malibu comics character Edge and any Marvel comic with the word in the title… the list goes on, but out of all the heavy hitters that have conceded, Langdell has finally met his angriest and noisiest match in the one place he probably least expected it: the indie game community.
Langdell has, of course, maintained his right to the mark, and has further claimed that Mobigame has undertaken what amounts to a PR war against him, but since that late May day, the facts have been piling up against him. Chief, in my mind, is the allegation by Mobigame that after informing Langdell that they'd be happy to withdraw any claims and change the name of their game to Edgy, Langdell immediately filed a new trademark on exactly that name (and the name does appear in the trademark database, filed some days before the App Store removal).