Bethesda Turns Down Quake Fight Over Scrolls Name; Takes Guaranteed Loss By Going To Court

from the scrolls-scrolls-scrolls-mountains-scrolls dept

A couple months ago, Mojang revealed that Bethesda had sent a cease and desist letter to the company over the use of the word “scrolls” in its latest game. Since then, Markus Persson, aka Notch, the creative mind behind Mojang and its massively successful game Minecraft, has been in a public relations spree against Bethesda. His boldest move was to challenge Bethesda to a game of Quake to determine the naming rights over “Scrolls.” It would seem that Bethesda’s lawyers were not impressed and, instead, have decided to follow through with their original threat.

As Notch announced on Twitter, “The Scrolls case is going to court! Weee! :D”

Gamasutra followed up with Daniel Kaplan, Mojang’s business developer, who described the nature of the court filings from Bethesda.

He explained that the document reveals how Bethesda lawyers are using comments on Scrolls videos and articles about the game to prove that the name will confuse players into believing that Scrolls is part of the Elder Scrolls franchise.

“They even took screenshots from our trailer and said we copied them… we have mountains in the Scrolls trailer, and they have that too in Skyrim,” he laughed.

This is all pretty much expected from Bethesda. However, in the comments on that article, Mihai Cozma made a good point, that “Bethesda will lose no matter what decision the court will take.” As Cozma explains, “Notch is so popular among gamers and small developers alike as a person, nothing will dim that. The way he treated this accusations led to an image of ‘the big guys who want to steal whatever this “poor” guy has achieved by hard work’ for Bethesda, which is detrimental to them.'”

He is absolutely right. This has turned into a public relations nightmare for Bethesda — which was easily avoidable. From the very first letter from Bethesda, Notch and the Mojang team have been very open and public about all events regarding “Scrolls” and the trademark threat. They have blogged, tweeted, done interviews with the press and have built up a lot of good will among gamers.

But what has Bethesda done? So far, all it has done is send threatening letters to Mojang and file the lawsuit in court. It has yet to speak to the press and share its side of the story and why it feels gamers would be confused over the name “Scrolls” and why it feels Mojang’s use of the name would be detrimental to their business. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid they will accidentally reveal some information critical to their case? Or are they afraid that any statement will be misinterpreted by the gaming public and further tarnish their image? It’s probably a little of both, but more of the latter.

As Cozma said, at this point in the situation, there is no winning for Bethesda.

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Companies: bethesda, mojang

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Comments on “Bethesda Turns Down Quake Fight Over Scrolls Name; Takes Guaranteed Loss By Going To Court”

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78 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Disinformation

Whoever wrote this article really needs to get their facts straight.

Mojang tried to trademark the word “Scrolls” for almost every conceivable use. The suit by Bethesda is just to counteract his suit so that they can use the word “Scrolls” in their game.

This is clearly just a PR stunt by Mojang, and is unfortunately successful because of articles like this one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Disinformation

So I just proved that Mojang is at least as much of a douchebag as Bethesda is and that’s what you’re going to say to me?

but you didn’t; you don’t seem to understand trademarks and business.

If Mojang is selling apparel with ‘Scrolls’ logo (and he should), trademarking ‘Scrolls’ for apparel is thoroughly appropriate. Standard practice. The same for Bethesda if they sell ‘Elder Scrolls’ merchandise, which I believe they do.

The problem is that Bethesda thinks that the two trademarks can’t coexist; their viewpoint is expansionist… that any mark similar to theirs is forbidden, even though there is no realistic chance of confusion. Bethesda is wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disinformation

A few issue here:
*’Almost every conceivable use’ is not what’s in the class description for the trademark. The uses Mojang has tried to trademark “Scrolls” for are, in plain English: Video Games including online connectivity, Movies, TV, TV and Radio Ads, Board Games, Card Game, Puzzle Games, and Branded Clothing. All of this make sense given what the game is supposed to be. It doesn’t seem to cover very many uses at all relative to the number of things routinely sold as licensed merchandise or included in collector’s editions.
*Is there a pending suit by Mojan or Notch? Was it actually dated before the Bethesda suit? Can you cite a source on this? I suspect you really mean ‘to counteract his trademark application’ which is silly because the suit doesn’t do that, opposing the trademark application does but that’s not what is happening. This is a suit filed against them in an attempt to stop them from calling their game “Scrolls.”
*If this is just a PR stunt by Mojang then how did they talk Bethesda into suing them just to get good PR out of it? I suspect this is going to cost them more, even if they win, then they will game in good PR afterward anyway but even if it does not it’s disingenuous to phrase this as if Mojang or Notch is the one calling the shots here and doing so for their own benefit when they are the party being sued.

Anonymous Coward says:

“They even took screenshots from our trailer and said we copied them… we have mountains in the Scrolls trailer, and they have that too in Skyrim,”

OI there’s like fucken mountains outside my windows aye?!? ol’ mother nature musta been coping bethesda again, that goddamn copycat, stealin’ all that work so my windows look pretty

OI, wait, yer sayin’ that mother nature came up with the whole mountain thing first ?? BETHESDA COPIED HER?!? I’VE BEEN LIED TO MY WHOLE LIFE!! OIIIIII!!!!! *jumps off building*

Cowardly Anon says:

Bethesda was given their out. They should have taken the Quake game. It would have been a great PR stunt for them and would have helped them save face. What’s more, NO ONE would have expected them to actually take the Quake challenge.

I’m willing to bet that the Elder Scrolls team has had little to no say in any of this. I’m also willing to bet that they are pissed.

Mr. Smarta** says:

Confusion???

The Pharoah sat upon his throne, ending a speech to his people of the city.

“Let it be written, so let it be done!” he ordered. “Scribe?”

“I cannot, sire. The use of scrolls has been forbidden across the lands.”

The pharoah stood with a look of shock upon his face. “Banned? Who dares to countermand me??”

“Lawyers,” the scribe swallowed. “Three thousand years from now, a company will copyright the word ‘scrolls’ making use of that word an offense. They will sue us and empty our coffers.”

“That’s ridiculous!!! What about the word papyrus? Can we use that?”

“No, sire. Someone else owns that word, too.” The scribe returned, obviously nervous.

“What about ‘paper’? Can we say that?” The pharoah inquired.

The scribe shook his head. “No, sire. ‘Paper’ will also be owned.”

“What about chiseling on walls? Can we at least do that??”

The scribe looked around, eventually nodding and relenting his argument.

The pharoah, now pleased, stood up and stated. “So let it be chiseled, so let it be done!!”

… And that’s how we have rocks chiseled in Egypt…

Bengie says:

Re: Actually, Yes

Counter citation

“Bethesda believes the ?Scrolls? trademark conflicts with their existing trademark for ?The Elder Scrolls”

http://neeksandgerds.com/wp/2011/08/08/mojang-sued-for-scrolls/

When you google for “scrolls lawsuit”, you get back a bunch of results from any news outlets, saying that Bethesda initiated the entire thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Saddest part of all this is that Bethesda seem to think that people still recognise the “The Elder Scrolls” brand, which is charmingly naive.

Since Oblivion was a success and known mostly as “Oblivion”, “The Elder Scrolls” prefix means nothing in relation to either Oblivion or Skyrim nowadays, especially since most of the people hyped for Skyrim are people who came into the franchise from Oblivion. I’ve seen many, many people refer to Skyrim as “Oblivion 2” or some variant of it. Which is kinda sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Notch? You mean that guy who takes others’ mods and shamelessly plugs them into his game without rewarding the creators? That guy who makes Jeb do all the work? The same guy who resisted making a proper modding API because he was afraid of people trying to make money off it? The one who continually changes the terms of purchase to benefit himself?

Hope this case doesn’t cut into his vacation time.

Bethesda is dumb but don’t listen to notch defense force pretending he’s a saint.

O says:

Re: Re:

I agree with pretty much all you said, but that part about taking ideas from modders is stupid.
Minecraft is in Beta. BETA. If Notch could not implement something just because a mod already exists, Minecraft would never be able to become a full game!

As for paying modders, this is not going to work. First, let’s clarify something: Mojang don’t steal code, they only copy IDEAS.
Now: Modders might ask for more money than they deserve and if Mojang refuses to pay them what they want, then what? Mojang can’t implement the mod? Mojang implements the mod anyway, then modders whine that “Mojang offers crappy deals and if you don’t accept the deal they use your mod anyway”? Or Mojang doesn’t use the mod at all, and then they might be unable to do with Minecraft what they planned to do!

And Modders are most likely to ask not for a specific amount of money, but for a percentage on sales of the game. Sure, give the first modder a 1% cut. Then Mojang can only implement 100 mods to Minecraft, and they have nothing left for themselves.

Do you also not realize that some mods are obvious ideas? One mod added hunger in version 1.6. Now that Minecraft has added hunger in version 1.8, should they have paid the modder for that idea (which many games already implemented)?

Also, some people don’t make mods but make suggestions for the game. Should Mojang pay these people money too for taking their suggestions?
Keep in mind: Mojang doesn’t take the code from mods, only the idea of the mod. It’s exactly the same thing as taking someone’s suggestion for a feature. So should I be paid something for writing somewhere on the Internet “hey, sprinting would be cool in Minecraft!”?

And finally, modders are currently making money off of Minecraft. Modders all offer their mod through an adfly link (some offer a direct link too, but they still have an optional adfly on the side). Everytime somebody downloads their mod from an adfly link, they make money. Everytime the mod is updated to a new version, everyone downloads it again, which gives the modder more money. Oh and some mods are ripoffs of announced future plans. Mojang said they’d create a ‘heaven’ of some sort way before the Aether mod came out.
Are modders paying Mojang a license fee for the right to sell their mods? Are they paying Mojang for making mods of Mojang’s planned ideas? They’re making money thanks to Minecraft after all.
No, they’re not paying, and they shouldn’t have to. But neither should Mojang have to pay modders anything, at least not as long as the game is in Beta. If modders don’t like this, they can wait for the full release to make mods.

The rest… Yes, Notch seems to be working slowly. At least compared to how fast modders work. The modding API would be nice because since Notch is so slow at adding content, it would be cool to have mods to compensate. That API should be a priority if Notch and Mojang won’t work faster. As for the terms of purchase I didn’t look into that so I have no opinion. I don’t care what someone buying the game today is agreeing to anyway, I only care about what I agreed to when I bought the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

After initial skepticism and writing off the suit as just more trademark BS I actually sat down and watched the trailer. As much as I hate to admit it I can see where bethesdas lawyers are coming from. Being a fantasy game the artwork does look somewhat *similar* to what a pre-pre-pre-production video of elderscrolls concept art might look like. I still dont think its worth getting lawyers involved but its not as baseless as I originally thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

If all the crying is over the word “scrolls” why not just change it to “scr?lls”, or something similar?

I mean, the “o” with a diaeresis makes that not even a word, so what would they sue over? You could even use ? !

(I fully expect Notch & Co. to take on Bethesda, tear them apart in court while laughing maniacally, and then, after they win, changing the name in a way similar to what I mentioned, just out of spite)

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