The Space Marine IP


So for those of you not in the know, back in December Game Workshop filed a complaint with Amazon claiming that a certain e-book was infringing on one of their IP’s by using the term “Space Marine” (full story here).

“Crazy,” the community replies. “Bullying,” well yes….. so lets look at the other side of the argument. The argument that GW probably won’t openly communicate to us.

Games Workshop are a business, and like all businesses they have a commitment to their stakeholders, and that includes you, the customer. That’s right, YOU/ME. Games Workshop deliver to us a rich and diverse universe of army’s, models, games and stories for us to consume and enjoy, and to their shareholders a slice of the action. None of this is possible if GW don’t remain competitive.

Their idea concerning the hole e-book debacle is that they want a customer to place in the search engine the words “space marines” and get a return of what they expect, an array of GW Space Marine related books. GW Customer heaven, Astartes roid machine reading material, “look this one has pictures!” And the same is said for their big push into the iBooks market stall. They don’t want you to go to the iBook store and wade through other Space Marine material, they want it to look consistent, they want their stuff to be up the top of the list.

So in return for this competitive aggression, GW remain a profitable company and we get a long list of commissioned work to read.

There is of course a downside to this to which the community is unhappy about:
a) the term Space Marine was coined way before GW used it
b) the sharing of ideas creates new original ideas, such as the one GW created when they started Rogue Trader
c) it’s really unfair on the little guy

The truth is, GW will win. They will win because they have the money and resources to win. Even if the community put in enough money to pay for a legal battle, it still wouldn’t be enough.

So in the end we’ll keep buying their products. After all, the Warhammer universes are pretty great.

Such is the price we pay.

Borkan Ice

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5 thoughts on “The Space Marine IP

  1. Phil says:

    Actually, they won’t win. Amazon has put the book back up because you can’t trade mark words in general use. These tactics thuggish and typical of a company that behaves like the be all and the end all. And not content with treating its own customers with contempt it has extended its reach to someone who has no interest in their particular brand of space marine.

    The truth is profit isn’t the issue. An eBook about a space marine that isn’t an adeptus astartes isn’t going to impact on them. It’s just about control and using the threat of legal action to achieve what they’ve failed to do in retail which is make their space marine the only space marine.

    But the audacity of their claim is what I really can’t stomach. They ‘borrowed’ an awful lot of their material from other people. Chaos was an outright rip off from the novels by Michael Moorcock.

    And their attempt to trade mark common use words is dangerous. It tells companies that they can stifle creativity for profit. They can make it impossible for anyone to have a creative idea unless they work for a corporation or have a legal shield to hide behind.

    The legal team at the Games Workshop should be ashamed of what they attempted to perpetrate and Tom Kirby should be too. And he better get his house in order or he’ll lose even more customers than he has been.

    • Bork'an Ice says:

      It’s good to have a healthy debate, I think the two side are this

      -it destroys creativity of other possible stories
      -it strengthens the existence of the current universe

      It’s the same problem / battle had by many companies, most notably Apple, for example. They stole ideas and now they don’t like others stealing theirs.

      I’m sure some day in the future another big player will come by and change the whole dynamics, and maybe even Games Workshop and their IPs will be forgotten.

      • Phil says:

        That would be fine except there’s nothing to be gained by attempting to trade mark space marine. It doesn’t enrich anything. It doesn’t make Adeptus Astartes any better to play with, any easier to find online – because SEO doesn’t work on trade marks and copyright – or any easier to sell. It’s an ill advised knee jerk reaction to a problem that didn’t exist. And it’s upset a lot of people.

      • Bork'an Ice says:

        I’m not saying it directly enriches the universe. I’m saying that it strengthens their hold on the market, increases their profitability, which in turn they can invest on new products and commissioned work (oh and pass back to their shareholders).

        Thought I’d best clarify.

  2. Onshava says:

    Like Bork says, there’s definitely two sides to this. I can see Games Workshop’s side, as they want their “Space Marine” to be the most notable in the field of sci-fi. As said above, Apple did something similar to this when suing Samsung. They took a Samsung tablet and showed courts how similar it was to their product, even though their product wasn’t an original product to begin with. It’s also of note that, to make the Samsung interface resemble Apple’s, it took some customizing. They’ve won their suit here in the states, but lost it in other countries. So it’ll go here; Games Workshop will either win, or they won’t. I mean, if you read the linked article, it would appear that Marvel and DC have done similar actions with the word “superhero”, but that hasn’t caused people to stop seeing Avengers.

    I don’t think there would have been as much of an uproar had they gone after another “big company” instead of a small author. If you look at the title, “Spots the Space Marine”, one could see how Games Workshop may have a case. I doubt it’s even remotely influenced, but if I were to write a book named, “Seth the Wolverine”, I bet I’d get a similar letter from Marvel. It doesn’t look like GW is picking on the little guy, but trying to protect what they think is theirs. Whether it is or isn’t depends solely on the courts.

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