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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Mike C. (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Lay up...

    The only winning move is not to play.

    How about a nice game of chess?

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Another One For The Boycott List

    Bethesda can sit down next to Apple, Sony, and Creative and think about what they've done. Dicks.

     

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      Rabbit80, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:25pm

      Re: Another One For The Boycott List

      Agreed - Glad you have not forgotten Creative' sins! They are on a permanent boycott list for personally screwing me!

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    Glad I swore off buying Bethesda after they snuck DRM into New Vegas.

     

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    Still and anonymous coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Dwarf or Troll side first?

    Let me get out my mining helmet so I can try to get into the right frame of mind for the former side.

    Heavens knows I can easily slip into the later.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    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.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

      Re: Disinformation

      No.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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      blaktron (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

      Re: Disinformation

      Him filing a trademark is not the same as suing, even though no one has claimed thats even what happened. Your comment suggests you dont know whats happening, you know, since the facts are wrong.

       

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      Steve, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Disinformation

      Link to said application?

       

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      Ben (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

      Re: Disinformation

      How's the job at Bethesda working out?

       

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      •  
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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

        Re: Re: Disinformation

        +1

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

        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?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

          Re: Re: Re: Disinformation

          I don't think you know what "proved" means.

           

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          The eejit (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: Disinformation

          I see no link in your post. ergo, you're not telling the truth.

           

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          Chris Rhodes (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Disinformation

          Mojang tried to trademark "Scrolls", not sue Bethesda over their use of the word "Scrolls". Bethesda is suing, so they are still the douchebags here.

          (Now is the moment of truth: Will the AC admit defeat, double down on his stupidity, or just leave the conversation in shame?)

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

          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.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

      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.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:33pm

      Re: Disinformation

      No.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:27pm

      Re: Disinformation

      "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."

      [Citation needed]

       

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 7:32pm

      Re: Disinformation

      If Bethesda thought the word scrolls was so bleeding important, than why in the years they have had a game called the Elder Scrolls have they never sought to trademark that word?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    "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*

     

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    Cowardly Anon, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:35pm

    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.

     

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      Yakko Warner (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      Not to mention, considering Bethesda parent company ZeniMax bought id Software, makers of Quake, two years ago, it's likely they could've brought in some top players and mopped the floor with Notch & Co. in such a contest.

      They went from a sure win to a sure loss.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

        Re: Re:

        Now imagine how epic that would have been.
        To bad people don't know how to play things in the real world anymore.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:30pm

      Re:

      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.

      Reminds me of that parody handbag incident a few weeks back. Legal departments don't really seem to be acting in their companies' interests these days.

       

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    Still an anonymous coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:35pm

    (That's the second time my traitorous fingers have typed "and" when I wanted "an".
    So I have decided to register now.

    Hope you're happy fingers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    [quote]
    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.
    [/quote]

    Care to give a citation, clown?

     

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    Mr. Smarta**, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    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...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Actually, Yes

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    This is like if facebook were to start suing everyone who used either face or book in their site name. Oh wait.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:46pm

    Pre-orders for RAGE and Skyrim have been canceled.

     

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    raleighsmvp (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    hearing about this reminded me I needed to buy Minecraft

    done. thanks Bethesda

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    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.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:25pm

    Top 5 Reasons why Dark Souls Will eat Skyrim's Face
    http://ps3.ign.com/articles/119/1196439p1.html

    Now you have no reason not to boycott.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    *Glad I swore off buying Bethesda after they snuck DRM into New Vegas.*

    I'm with you there. That was just annoying.

     

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    Benjo (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Really?

    It's hard for me to imagine the situation where a consumer spontaneously buys a game called "Scrolls" because they are a fan of The Elder Scrolls.

    And the same goes for any other type of merchandise like shirts or spin off games (board/card). Would really love to see this go away.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:36pm

    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.

     

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      O, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 5:01pm

      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.

       

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        freak (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 6:53pm

        Re: Re:

        Also, the eventual plan is to have a minecraft mod store, where the mod makers get the majority of the profit, maybe even all of it.

        That's straight from Carl Manneh, with whom I had a long twitter conversation about the store.

         

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      lucidrenegade (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      New symbol, same troll.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 6:42pm

      Re:

      You must have missed the part where those modders willingly contributed their mods (and in some cases even helped implement them directly).

      Either that or you're just lying.

      Which is it?

       

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    Benjo (profile), Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Zenimax?

    Wasn't this suit initiated by Zenimax, Bethesda Gaming Studio's parent company? I don't think they (Bethesda) has any choice over the matter.

     

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    Me, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Boycott

    Now I'm not buying Skyrim. Not because I like Notch, but because I hate BS lawsuits regarding Trademark and Copyright issues. Congrats Bethesda.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 4:50pm

    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.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 27th, 2011 @ 5:10pm

    If all the crying is over the word "scrolls" why not just change it to "scrölls", 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 ø !

    (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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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2011 @ 8:58am

    I want to fly!

    Bethesda ALREADY lost in my book. I LOVED Morrowind, but the later games in the series don't allow levitation. So, I won't be buying them. I won't even pirate them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    My guess would be that Bethseda is worried that if someone just types in Scrolls in a google search, their game wont be the first hit.

     

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    Kim, Oct 9th, 2011 @ 3:47pm

    Scrolls

    So... Bethesda sue Mojang for the use of Scrolls. Should The Wizard's Scrolls makers sue Bethesda for the same thing?

    Confusing!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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