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The Courts Games

Bethesda's 'Scrolls' Lawsuit Going Ahead 332

Posted by Soulskill
from the really-guys dept.
New submitter person46 writes "Bethesda's lawsuit against Mojang, developers of Minecraft, is going to court. As you may recall, Bethesda is claiming copyright infringement over the title of Mojang's upcoming CCG/board game Scrolls. Bethesda claims that the name and game concept are too similar to their well-known RPG franchise The Elder Scrolls. '[C]ourt documents show that Bethesda lawyers plan to use comments on Scrolls articles and videos from around the web to show how people will confuse Scrolls with The Elder Scrolls. He also added that they've captured screenshots of Scrolls' trailer as a way of showing how Mojang has copied Bethesda because both Skyrim and Scrolls contain mountains.' Mojang founder Notch had offered to settle the dispute with a friendly game of Quake 3, but apparently Bethesda wasn't up for that."
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Bethesda's 'Scrolls' Lawsuit Going Ahead

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  • '... as a way of showing how Mojang has copied Bethesda because both Skyrim and Scrolls contain mountains.'

    I think I might have a case against... just about every shooter out there!

    After all, I can demonstratively prove they all feature the ground, which I believe I knew of way back in the 80s! (when I was like, 2)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gadget_Guy (627405) *

      '... as a way of showing how Mojang has copied Bethesda because both Skyrim and Scrolls contain mountains.'

      I think I might have a case against... just about every shooter out there!

      The whole summary is a complete troll. Firstly, this is not about copyright but trademark infringement (as has been stated here already). Why do people get these concepts so confused. I am sure that some idiot here will mention patents too. (Oh look, it was me!)

      And who was it that made this claim that it was about copying mountains? Why the business developer of the company who want to belittle the entire lawsuit! The quip about settling this with a Quake 3 game is another attempt to trivialise the dispute.

      • Re:what!? (Score:4, Informative)

        by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:36AM (#37536078)

        That's a bit different. Scrolls is just a generic word that's been around for centuries. Minecraft is a word that I wasn't aware of at all until Notch created it. If it was in use at all prior to the game being conceived of, it wasn't in common use at the time.

        • In the spirit of Slashdot pedantry, I'll point out that the name Mincecraft was created by Paul Eres, who is not part of Mojang.

          Your point hits near the mark though. The more descriptive the trademark, the more difficult it is to enforce. Minecraft is pretty descriptive but as a compound word made of words that normally wouldn't be sequenced as such a phrase, it's got a slight edge over Elder Scrolls. Scrolls by itself seems pretty weak when compared to either of the other brands.

      • Scrolls != Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim,

        Scrolls != Elder Scrolls VI : Oblivion,

        Scrolls != Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind,

        Scrolls != Elder Scrolls II : Daggerfall,

        Scrolls != Elder Scrolls I : Arena.

        There, solved the problem. The reason people trivialize this is because its a ridiculous argument coming from Bethesda. The name Scrolls vs. Elder Scrolls doesn't confuse anyone that doesn't have a severe mental deficiency.

      • Except NOBODY ever calls any of the elder scrolls games "scrolls". You call them by their subtitle, "morrowind", "oblivion", and "skyrim". In fact, testing it out, most gamers on the street have no idea WHAT "the elder scrolls" is. They've NEVER HEARD OF IT. But you mention "oblivion" and they go "ooooh, THAT game".

        The idea that Bethesda owns the trademark to the word "Scroll" because they have trademarked "The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim" is crazy. Thats like saying if my game is called "space marine adventur
  • by aitikin (909209)
    Come now, we all know one game is not enough. You need at least a best of 3, minimum. 3 out of 5 is reasonable, but 5 out of 9 is where we get reasonable. If Notch were serious, he wouldn't have lowballed it!
  • amusing side note... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @11:24PM (#37535512)

    The very topic of this pending lawsuit is a forbidden one on the bethesda game studios forums.

    From my own expierences on that forum several years ago, I can pretty much assure you that it is enforced with gestapo like ferocity, at the behest of the legal and corporate drones, and the moderator staff is all too willing to enforce such censorship.

    Long ago I swore off ever buying another bethesda softworks title as direct retail (I will only purchase second hand, to ensure that they never receive any of my money) and things like this only reinforce that opinion.

    • the moderator staff is all too willing to enforce such censorship.
      Of course they are. And do you know why? They enforce the censorship because that's part of what they're getting paid to do. If they don't enforce it they lose their jobs, so they do what they're told to do, just like you'd probably do. And before you insist you'd rather be fired than do something like that I suggest you take a moment and think about how bad the job market is right now and how hard it would be to find a new job.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Bethesda is claiming copyright infringement," no they're claiming trademark infringement. Big difference.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, what's the penalty for copyright infringement these days? Is it up to hanging yet?

      I think that Notch is lucky that it's just trademark infringement and not copyright infringement that Bethesda is taking them to court over.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        If it's hanging these days, imagine what it will be in 500 years when todays' copyrights will still be valid!

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      Everyone seems to be missing the point that in this instance Bethesda are the good guys. Mojang wanted to trademark the WORD "Scrolls" when related to video games, and if they succeed they, Mojang, will be obliged to vigorously defend that trademark against any game that infringes their trademark by using that word in a video game title. And while Mojang could be as lax as they want to be about that while Notch is running the studio, if he sells out, like many other successful devs have eg Molyneux or Garri
      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        Uh what? So just because Bethesda happens to have a trademark on "the elder scrolls" they should be able to own every single word in their trade mark? Should they sue other companies for using the word "the" too? That sounds even worse!

  • Just Plane Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedgemage (934558) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @11:38PM (#37535644)
    Bethesda's legal trolls are missing a major marketing opportunity here that would benefit both their organization and Mojang.
    If they had accepted Notch's offer for a Quake match, then their marketing dept. could have spun it into a major event. See the example of Southwest Airlines vs. Stephens Aviation over the phrase "Just Plane Smart". The CEOs agreed to arm wrestle for it with the loser giving up their claim and donating $5000 to charity. The arm-wrestling event was publicized and tickets were sold, $15,000 was raised for charity, and both organizations benefited from positive media exposure.
    Now Bethesda, regardless of outcome, is going to be viewed as a big douchebag beating up on a little guy.
  • by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @11:41PM (#37535666) Homepage Journal

    The story claims that this is about copyright, and then links another slashdot story that doesn't mention copyright once.

    Every [osnews.com] story [arstechnica.com]I can [gamespy.com] find [wordpress.com] about this says that it is a trademark dispute, not copyright.

  • What. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @11:41PM (#37535672)

    This is the turf you choose to defend, BethSoft? The word 'scrolls'?

    You do realize that the whole 'elder scrolls' part of your fiction is ancillary at BEST, right? Virtually all of the written works are contained in proper books, and the idea of history scrolls as important is left to the occasional sidequest - it's mostly a holdover title.

    You do realize that this whole fight is literally a big developer gunning down on a small independent developer making a freaking collectable card battle game variant?

    Even if you win, you're just going to look like a complete jackass, in a field that depends on you looking like somewhat decent people when you're trying to sell fantasy worlds to gamers.

    This is not the fight to have, not the opponent to defeat, and not a good way to spend your money or life.

    Wake up, you're making a horrible mistake, and you can't win this kind of fight, a fight only you seem to want to have.

    Ryan Fenton

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      But you're happy for Mojang to own the word "scrolls"? Remember when Origin and Bullfrog were cool game studios?
      • But you're happy for Mojang to own the word "scrolls"? Remember when Origin and Bullfrog were cool game studios?

        Own the word "scrolls"? No. Own trademark to the the name of their game? Of course. Trademarks don't give anything near the level of control over a word that you suggest.

    • You would do well to send your opinions to the parent company of Bethesda, ZeniMax [zenimax.com].

  • Sadly, while I've played and liked the previous games, and was looking forward to Skyrim. The very idea that they would actually sue over the word "scroll" in relation to RPGs completely destroys any respect I might have for the company. I hope they realize that whatever they could possibly hope to win in this lawsuit will cost them in good will from customers. As I for one have no intention of buying any more of their products... Add another entertainment company to the list of companies just not to p

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      They kind of lost their way in my opinion. They used to make huge games but as shown with Oblivion they took game content out to simply sell it as DLC.

      I'll probably play it but not for a couple of years later when all the DLC that should have been in the game in the first place is included in their GOTY edition for a cheaper price (smart gamer I guess).

  • Bethesda are required to provide the court with a comprehensive list of points of similarity, including minor ones. If they do not provide a point of similarity, it can be used against them as evidence that their claim is incomplete, that they concede certain elements of similarity do not infringe, or that their understanding of the property is incomplete. The Judge is expected to filter through this list and determine which elements are co-incidental and which contribute to possible infringement, as well a
    • by Miseph (979059)

      They are also required to take all reasonable legal action to protect their trademark, and failure to do so can be used against them in the future. They may not care if Notch names his game "Scrolls", and may not even believe that it would meaningfully weaken their brand, but if they fail to take any action a future game could do something with far more potential to cause harm and use this example to defend themselves.

      Trademarks work quite differently from copyrights, that is one of the many ways.

  • Bethesda is being stupid. Bad PR for them -- although the addicts will buy Skyrim anyway. Most people I know don't call Bethesda's games "Elder Scrolls"; they play "Morrowind" or "Oblivion" or "Skyrim". No one goes looking for "Elder Scrolls IV mods", they look for "Oblivion mods".

    And only an idiot would confuse a collectible card game from and indie publisher with a single-player RPG from a major software house. By all the gods, am I going to be sued by Bethesda because my novels have mountains and scro

  • Any game developers on /. care to file a friend of the court brief regarding this case? It could be your studio that gets dragged into litigation next.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:09AM (#37535910)

    Go ahead and search on http://tess2.uspto.gov/ [uspto.gov] for "scrolls"

    With a filing date of May of this year, Mojang applied for a word mark on the word "Scrolls". Check the link, but this is just some of the claims they're making:

    "Computer games; video games; computer software; computer and video games software; computer software downloaded or downloadable; computer software publications downloaded; interactive entertainment software; data recorded electronically from the Internet; data recorded in machine readable form from the Internet; discs, tapes, cartridges, CD-ROMs and other magnetic, electronic or optical media, all bearing computer games software or video games; electronic amusement apparatus for use with television receivers; electronic games apparatus; home video game machines"

    Maybe a lawyer can come along and clarify if this is Bethesda being paranoid or if they're justified in feeling threatened.

    • Interesting, Looks like the legal drones in both companies need a boot in the ass.
      No mod points though, unfortunately.
  • ...so which of the two is a remake of the 1984 Atari 8-bit game The Scrolls of Abadon [atarimania.com]? Darn confusing titles! Star Trek vs. Star Wars, Miami Vice vs. CSI Miami... there should be a law against that!
  • From Morrowind on, the game's subtitle became far more important than the fact that it was in the Elder Scrolls series. There really is no brand recognition. Every gamer knows Skyrim is coming out and they identify it as that not as TESV.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      There absolutely is brand recognition. Everyone who's excited about Skyrim knows it's the sequel to Oblivion, and most of them know that Oblivion was the sequel to Morrowind. I could have told you I was excited to play TESV long before the actual title was announced.

      If Notch was calling his game "Elder Scrolls" or something like that, the Bethesda would have a valid complaint. Of course, that's not what's going on, and they don't.

  • The Law Should Say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squiffy (242681) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:49AM (#37536168) Homepage

    The law should say that the trademark holder must either defend the trademark *or* proactively grant license to use it when it looks like someone might be in violation. IANAL but it seems like the law binds your hands if you hold a trademark. Either you act like a douchebag or lose it.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That's right, but the only people who decided that having "Scroll" in the name of any other game was a violation of trademark are Bethesda's lawyers, who are playing them for fools in order to continue to extract money from them. Probably they hadn't done anything in a while and had to justify their existence.

  • At first I thougth this whole thing was ridiculous and that Bethesda would likely withdraw before actually making it to court, but if Apple can win a patent case against Samsung over rounded corners on a touchscreen device, I'm betting Bethesda could win a copyright case against Mojang for both games having mountains in them.

  • IANAL, but I think I head somewhere if you don't assert your rights over trademark/copyright, you lose them... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acquiescence [wikipedia.org] or maybe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_(equity) [wikipedia.org]. Maybe it's par for the course to assert your rights upfront, however small, for fear the other party might take advantage of their "free license" to stomp all over your tm's and c's later? I know our IP system is really complicated and mostly fucked, but it's a thought.
    • You're absolutely right about either protecting your trademark or losing it. I remember a case, back in the '90s, where some dentists wanted to put together a convention for dentists around the world. They decided to call it "WorldCon" and were happily promoting it until they received a Cease and Desist letter. They hadn't known that the Wold Science Fiction Society owns a trademark on that name so they hadn't gotten permission to use it in advance. It's a shame, too, as they probably would have gotten
  • Instead of buying Skyrim, I might instead take a look at Scrolls. Not because I'm confused, but because a) my interest in this product is now raised, and b) I don't like giving money to douchebags.

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      Then don't give your money to the douchebags trying to trademark a common word, ie Mojang. Scrolls is also a pay to play, card trading game, so good luck with your choice!
      • by mgiuca (1040724)

        Pay to play as in, subscription? Or one time? Anyway ... I don't have a moral issue with someone trademarking a common word. It happens all the time: "Apple", "Windows", "Wired", "Chrome" are a couple of examples in the tech sector. Trademarks are only enforceable specific to the industry and can't be descriptive of the product, so Microsoft couldn't sue a window-cleaning company called "Windows", and nor could said window-cleaning company get their own trademark on "Windows" because it is descriptive for t

      • by kikito (971480)

        What is, exactly, wrong about them trademarking the word scrolls? How is it different from "Apple", "Windows" or "Google"?

  • What the holy FUCK?

    Next up: Bethesda sues Tibet.

  • My Magic-User was using scrolls, sometimes stolen from an elderly person, back in the 80's. I should dust off his character record and have him sue Bethesda.

    I don't know the fine details, and the summary seems somewhat inflammatory, but it looks like Bethesda's making a mistake here. Not a big enough one (thus far) to dissuade me from still wanting Skyrim, but they've got another month to do so.

    I rather wish they had spent more time coming up with a better, and more sanely priced collector's edition, howev

  • *ring*

    Zenimax: "Hullo?"

    Lawyer: "Excuse me Mr. Bethesda, I'm calling on behalf of my client the Dead Sea Scrolls. We need to talk."

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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