Developer Seems To Think Trademark On 'Army Builder' Means No One Can Use It In Conversation
from the time-to-learn-some-trademark-law dept
One of the downsides of the modern movement to include trademark law under the same “intellectual property” umbrella as copyright and patent law, is that you get people who think that trademark grants the same sort of overreaching monopoly rights that copyright and patent law do. But trademark law is really quite different — it’s designed as something of a consumer protection law, meant only to prevent confusing uses of the trademark in a way that would imply a product is made or endorsed by someone else. But since people still think of trademarks like copyrights and patents, they often conclude that they can try to stop people who aren’t violating the trademark at all.
Reader Reverand Dak alerts us to the news that Lone Wolf Development, a video game developer (who, we’re told, has no relationship with Lone Wolf Roleplaying Games nor with Lone Wolf & Club manga), received a trademark on the term Army Builder in connection with a game that they created under that name. No problems there. But apparently Lone Wolf has been sending out cease-and-desists to websites that have nothing to do with Lone Wolf’s Army Builder, and demanding that the phrase be blocked in forums on totally different subjects. Yes, they’re saying that no one can use the term in conversation:
There are two things that need to be done. First of all, improper references to the Army Builder trademark on the forums must be addressed. This can be achieved in either of two ways, or potentially a combination of both, at your discretion. The first option would be to remove such posts. Since this could appear harsh and potentially disrupt forum discussions, an acceptable alternative would be to revise such posts to utilize a generic term (e.g. “roster construction tool”, “list createor”, or “points calculator”) in place of the “Army Builder” name.
The second thing that needs to be addressed is that your forum users must be educated about the term Army Builder being a trademark and only applicable to our brand of products. This is necessary to avoid an ongoing problem and mitigate the future need for removal of improper posts. I’m sure you would also prefer that the forums continue to run smoothly and without interruption, so your assistance in getting forum users to utilize appropriate terms will benefit us all.
Or, you know, instead of educating all forum users around the world that they can no longer use the term “Army Builder” in conversation, how about we just educate the folks at Lone Wolf Development on the limits of trademark law and why it almost certainly does not apply to random forum users using the term in a way totally unrelated to Lone Wolf Development’s mark.
Update: As pointed out in the comments — and in a friendly email from Lone Wolf’s lawyers — Lone Wolf has backed down a bit and sorta, but not really, apologized. The guy claims that he’s not a lawyer (though, whoever emailed us said they were a lawyer representing the company), and didn’t quite realize what he was doing (and it showed). They still claim they want to block “potentially confusing and infringing uses” but our commenters raised some serious questions about the descriptive nature of the mark, and whether or not it should have been allowed in the first place. Still, let this be a lesson to folks, yet again, that acting as a bully tends to backfire.