Games Workshop Defeated Over Space Marine Book


Amazon has overturned a decision to withdraw a book that used the term “space marine.” A games firm had complained about the book, claiming it violated a trademark.

The book by MCA Hogarth is titled “Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler” and is described in the blurb as “Pollyanna meets Starship Troopers.”

The title didn’t go down well with British games firm Games Workshop, which has produced a series of board games and role playing products called Warhammer 40K and has trademarked the space marine term for use in gaming.

It complained to Amazon in December that the book violated that trademark and Amazon removed the e-book edition. It’s not clear exactly how Games Workshop was arguing that a gaming trademark covered books, though it seems it did get a trademark in the UK to cover spin-off publications, something that is unlikely to have any force on the site.

As you’d imagine, Hogarth was upset with the decision and enlisted the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in protesting the decision, with the likes of Wil Wheaton publicizing the issue. They pointed out that in literature the term dates back to at least November 1932 when Bob Olsen wrote “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” for the magazine Amazing Stories.

After Amazon reinstated the book, Games Workshop posted a message to its Facebook page. It’s now been deleted, but it is reported as saying that the company has a duty to shareholders to defend its trademarks against unauthorized commercial use. It didn’t address the question of whether the trademark really did cover books.

The EFF says the incident is an example of how companies will simply go after retailers — which don’t usually have the inclination to fight trademark claims — rather than take legal action against the alleged infringer which would require them to make their case in court.

Special credit has to go to a user named “Yankton” on the io9 site who commented that ” If only Games Workshop had spent 10 more points to give their ‘Legal Adjucator’ models the Corporate Precedent ability and they would have totally won this skirmish.”


5 Responses to Games Workshop Defeated Over Space Marine Book

  1. Games Workshop did not make “Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine” that was made by Relic.
    They made and own the Warhammer 40k universe +the table top games but not a single computer game.
    Those were all made by other companies like Relic who had to by the rights for doing so.

  2. Also, aren’t Games Workshop slowly going out of business, or so I have heard from friends who used to work in UK GW shops, now that they’re moving their showrooms, I mean, stores out of all US malls, and most gaming stores dropping their product, in favour of the much superior War Machine.

    • Same is happening in Australia. Upping prices and cutting workers (and stores), whilst also making their products WORSE – instead of metal going to some dodgy plastic for the same (increased) prices. Plus people realise that it’s WAY cheaper to ship things in from overseas where it’s a LOT cheaper or from other businesses who do it instead.

  3. In the UK, when one goes shopping, that activity takes place within one or more _shops_.
    Shop, noun, 1. a place … for the retail sale of goods and services
    Store, noun, 1. a supply or stock of something, especially one for future use.
    So while a business premises might in some cases be feasibly described as both a shop and a store, mostly they are not.
    A grain store – somewhere where grain is kept.
    A computer games shop – somewhere where computer games are sold. They don’t really require storage. Even more so, if the items for sale are intangible – what exactly is being “stored”?

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