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 BookBreeze.com 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 Bookbreeze.com 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 Bookbreeze.com 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: bookbreeze.com, 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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2019 @ 8:15pm

    In other news, Nintendo begins suing anyone who uses the trademarked terms Mario, Link and Donkey, with a section specific for Pokemon-related trademarks, including Gloom, Mew, Komala, and everything that mentions balls...

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

    • icon
      FlatZOut (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 2:18am

      That mentions “Balls”

      So they’re gonna sue PornHub?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 2:49am

      I'd like to be able to laugh, but...

      The sad thing is given that company's history of being control freaks something like that actually wouldn't be too out of character for them, leading to yet another 'problem with parody/poe' moment.

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

      • icon
        FlatZOut (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 6:18am

        Re: I'd like to be able to laugh, but...

        It’s a shame there’s no “Sad But True” vote button. I would vote that on your reply in a heartbeat. Have an Insightful vote instead, my friend.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 4:17am

    What short term memories exist around here.

    Zenimax is the same retarded company which went after Mohjang over the word "scrolls" (and "settled") and an indie developer over the word "prey" (forcing the dev to change the name of the game).

    Karma. Poetic Justice. Just desserts.

    Whatever you want to call it, it's good to see Zenimax being on the receiving end of their own bullshit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:54am

    Of course there could be confusion.

    From the article:

    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.

    You seam to be saying that there is no overlap between book (or entertainment media in general) and video games. Have you heard of the long running tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons that has spawned uncountable books and also a great many video games?

    What about Lord of the Rings? It started as a book, got a series of movies, and a MMO that is still available called Lord of the Rings Online.

    If I was a fan of a current series of books and saw a video game come out with the same name, I would expect the game was an off-shoot of the books where I could play in the world created by the book author.

    If the above two are not sufficient examples, here's a few more ...

    Elite, a space game originating from the 1980's released it's current incarnation a few years ago in the form of a MMO called Elite:Dangerous. Prior to the current incarnation, a fan of the video game wrote a successful story that takes place in the video game universe. It (the book) was so successful that the video game company and the author got together and more books were created that tied the books and game tightly. So much so, that events within the MMO affected the outcome of (at least) one of the books.

    Disney has released (or had released) a number of games related to their movies. Many of which are based on previous stories.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 8:23am

      Re: Of course there could be confusion.

      I was about to post on the same bit of the article. There are many more games than you've listed that bridge the gap between video games and literature. Halo, for example, was a game first and a book series was written to continue the story. Games themselves are often considered literature in that they tell a story, some without any meaningful gameplay, just a literary walk-through in a 3D environment.

      Though trademark law may make a distinction between games and literature the reality is that it's a very fine line.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 7:37am

    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.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      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.

      Yeah, I think that's an excellent point that the article doesn't mention. Timothy suggests that the issue could be that Falconer wants to adapt his book series as a game, but doesn't mention that the reverse could be the case; Bethesda could adapt its game as a fantasy novel. A quick search shows that there are already Elder Scrolls novels (as well as Doom ones). Fantasy and science fiction are, of course, typically shelved together in brick-and-mortar bookstores, and obviously it would also have an impact on searches for Falcon's books on Amazon and other online retailers.

      I'm inclined to agree that while Bethesda and Falconer's respective Redfall titles are currently separate markets, it's not at all difficult to foresee a circumstance where that ceases to be the case. I'm less inclined than Timothy is to conclude that this was a case of trademark bullying; I think Falconer may have a point.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 10:38am

    Can I write StarCraft books?

    So can I write some books called "StarCraft" which have nothing to do with the Blizzard video game? No? Why, because the name "StarCraft" is copyrighted and people will confuse it with the video game?
    Then why isn't "RedFall" copyrighted?

    Like other people are saying, there is a very real case of people thinking the book and video game are related and will get upset or confused if they're not.
    In this case, I think this is exactly what copyright law was designed for: making sure the customer isn't misled by a specific title or phrase.

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

    • 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, BookBreeze.com 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).

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

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 4:16pm

    That sauce once again

    Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander - again.

    Zenimax is essentially a horror story when it comes to fair-use, trademarks, and in general just being dicks. To be clear, they are a bunch of dicks that appear to pride themselves on being a bunch of dicks.

    Check out their insane position versus Mojang's Scrolls game. Then there was the entire BS about Carmack's code re Occulus. Which wasn't an issue at all until FB bought them for billion$. THEN it was an issue.

    Which the courts got completely wrong. Of course.

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

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    Christian Gray (profile), 31 May 2019 @ 3:43am

    All Indian Recruitment 2019-20

    The candidates who are looking for the news govt job vacancies. The can check all the details about it from this site https://www.govtexamsform.com/. In this article we have provided the details about New Govt Vacancy and their selection procedure.

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


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