Bethesda And Zenimax Settle 'Redfall' Trademark Dispute With Trollish Book Publisher

from the what-a-breeze dept

Zenimax, parent company of Bethesda, was in a trademark dispute with book publisher on behalf of author Jay Falconer over Zenimax's trademark application for the term "Redfall". I could have sworn I wrote about this when the this dispute started in February, but it appears not. At issue is that Falconer has a sci-fi series of novels with the Redfall title and he is claiming that the public might be confused between his books and whatever game Zenimax is planning to publish with that trademark. Much of the speculation is that it will be for the next Elder Scrolls game.

It’s not known exactly what game ZeniMax applied for the Redfall trademark for, but with another Elder Scrolls game in the works at ZeniMax-owned Bethesda, it’s possible that the company was planning to use Redfall in the name of that in-development game.

According to the author, his legal team attempted to resolve the issue before filing an official dispute, but was met with radio silence from ZeniMax at every turn.

“My lawyers made attempts to contact gaming company to work out a simple licensing deal for them to use my Redfall name,” tweeted Falconer. They ignored me every time. Shame. Left me no choice. All could have been avoided. Just call my attorneys back.”

All of which is nonsense. The video game and literary markets are not the same and it strains the mind to imagine how the average consumer might somehow confuse an entry in the Elder Scrolls game series with a series of science fiction novels. This always had the smell of a money-grab and I had rather hoped that Zenimax would bother to fight this one out in court. After all, the real concern by Falconer appears to be that he might some day want to license his books for a game. That hope and dream is not the basis for a trademark dispute, however.

Unfortunately, it looks like Zenimax has settled with Falconer. I say unfortunately because, as is common, the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

"ZeniMax Media Inc. and are pleased to announce that they have amicably resolved a pending trademark dispute related to the Redfall trademark," reads a short statement.

"While the specific terms of the agreement are confidential, the parties believe that resolution of the matter is mutually beneficial to both ZeniMax and and their respective fans."

So what does that all mean? Who knows. I'll be interested to see if Zenimax gets its trademark for "Redfall", or uses it without a trademark. We'll never find out if any money was exchanged, but, if that happened, it looks like Falconer will have pulled off some trademark bullying for profit. It would have been much better to see this fought out in court, because the initial claims weren't particularly strong.

Oh well. Perhaps Zenimax's lawyers have grown tired of lawyerly adventures after taking too many trademark arrows to the knee.

Filed Under: books, jay falconer, redfall, science fiction, trademark, video games
Companies:, zenimax

Reader Comments

The First Word

I could have sworn I wrote about this when the this dispute started in February, but it appears not.

You did, and it was in the Crystal Ball for a while, but somehow it ended up not being published.

All of which is nonsense. The video game and literary markets are not the same and it strains the mind to imagine how the average consumer might somehow confuse an entry in the Elder Scrolls game series with a series of science fiction novels.

In addition to the excellent post above detailing just how interconnected these markets are, there's more than one form of confusion. If Bethesda publishes a game under the same title as an established book series, there are two obvious ways that that could go wrong:

1) They could then want to publish (or license to others to publish) tie-in books in the game's setting, which would then end up stepping on the sci-fi series' toes. Trademark opposition is a very good way of making sure that this doesn't happen, especially in cases where the newcomer (Bethesda, in this case) is not aware of the existence of the other series.
2) They could end up drowning out the sci-fi series. Bethesda is huge, with a massive degree of cultural impact. Everyone has heard of Fallout and Skyrim. If they come out with a game called Redfall, and then people find Redfall books in the bookstore and find out that it's not at all related to this game they like, they might feel cheated or annoyed. They might ask for their money back. They might leave negative reviews calling it deceptive advertising or accusing the books of trying to free-ride on the name of the game, even though the books were around first.

Video games and sci-fi books may not be exactly the same market, but they're close enough that I don't see anything "trollish" or unworthy about the publisher's efforts to avoid getting steamrolled by this trademark registration. There are plenty of bad-faith trademark abuses out there, but this honestly does not look like one of them.

—Mason Wheeler

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  1. icon
    Thad (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 11:58am

    Re: Can I write StarCraft books?

    There are several problems with your post.

    The first is, you don't seem to understand the difference between copyright and trademark.

    The second is, you ask why RedFall isn't copyrighted. Presumably you mean why isn't it trademarked. Which it is; that's what the story is about, claiming that Bethesda applying for a trademark on "Redfall" conflicts with its existing trademark on "RedFall".

    Third, Blizzard doesn't just hold a trademark on "StarCraft" in the video game market, it has also licensed StarCraft novels. That's the crucial detail here: where the mark is used. That's why, for example, using "Monster" in the name of a paint company does not infringe on Monster Energy Drink's trademark. If the Redfall game never releases any novels and the RedFall novel series never releases any games, then they're each staying in their own lanes and there's no trademark infringement. However, if there's an intention of cross-media adaptations, then there is a potential trademark issue (much as when the video game adaptation of the Fables comic book series was retitled The Wolf Among Us, due to the similarity between the comic's title and the unrelated Fable video game series).

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