The patent portfolio battles between Apple on the one side and Samsung, Google, and whomyouhave on the other sides, are all over the news. Within the gaming industry since some months there is a disturbing trademark battle on, too. It has its fun sides, but is a more serious and deep-probing issue than I first thought. At the core is a dispute between the companies ↑Mojang and Zenimax/Bethesda over the use of the word ‘Scrolls.’
Mojang is the company of ↑Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of the indie cult title ↑Minecraft. ↑Bethesda Softworks is the developer and publisher of ↑The Elder Scrolls (and of ↑Fallout 3). Bethesda in turn is a subsidiary of ↑ZeniMax Media, which meanwhile e.g. also owns legendary ↑id Software.
In a nutshell: Mojang has a game in development which they christened ‘↑Scrolls,’ and Bethesda doesn’t like the naming.
The fun part is that ↑Notch challenged Bethesda to settle the matter out of courts by means of a ↑Quake III Arena (Q3A) tournament:
The only negative thing going on at this moment is the Scrolls trademark lawsuit nonsense, and I think I came up with the perfect solution:
Remember that scene in Game of Thrones where Tyrion chose a trial by battle in the Eyrie? Well, let’s do that instead!
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.
That naturally pasted a broad grin on my face about two months ago. On the surface it looks like the small good-guy indie-genius is good-humouredly up against the bad-guys of the bigger industry. Meanwhile I got it that the thing can’t easily be rendered in black and white. If you want to get it, too, I recommend Russ Pitts’ two-part in-depth coverage and discussion of the case at Kotaku: ↑Mojang vs. Bethesda, and ↑Mojang vs. Bethesda Part 2.
The following sentences from there pointed me towards the whole affair not only having technical legal angles, but decidedly cultural ones, too:
Think about trademarks in terms of your own personal identity. The closest analogy to trademark infringement in our daily lives would be if someone, somewhere, started using your identity to apply for credit cards, ran up a huge bill in your name and then bailed. Your credit rating would suffer and you may have to spend your own money and time to correct the problem. You might even face charges for something you didn’t do. For companies, their trademarks are part of their identities, [...].
For understanding copyright, its importance for, and threats to culture, go and download Larry Lessig’s ↓Free Culture legally for free.
Nevertheless I’d love to see that Q3A-tournament.