Warhammer Company Makes "Space Marine" Trademark Claim

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Warhammer Company Makes "Space Marine" Trademark Claim


Warhammer 40K publisher Games Workshop appears to be lining up a claim that the term "space marine" belongs to it and it alone.

To me, "space marine" is a very generic term for heavily-armed soldier types in space. The Master Chief is a space marine. The guys from Doom and Quake are space marines. The System Shock 2 marine is a space marine. Heinlein's Starship Troopers are space marines. Imperial Stormtroopers are space marines. Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez and Apone - space marines all. You get the idea.

To Games Workshop, however, there is only one space marine, and it's the Space Marines from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame and related properties. The company holds a trademark on the term for "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint," but now it appears to be broadening its claim significantly beyond what it has a right to.

In December 2012, Games Workshop used a trademark infringement claim to force the removal of the ebook Spots the Space Marine from Amazon. The book, an homage to classic sci-fi author Robert Heinlein, is still available in physical format [http://www.amazon.com/Spots-Space-Marine-Defense-Fiddler/dp/1470131056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360185450&sr=8-1&keywords=spots+the+space+marine] but the ebook edition is not, and according to the author, M.C.A. Hogarth, the real worry is that Games Workshop may be readying a similar move against all other uses of "space marine."

"In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entrée into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term 'space marine' in all formats. If they choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that's been a part of its canon since its inception," she wrote. "Space marines were around long before Games Workshop. But if GW has their way, in the future, no one will be able to use the term 'space marine' without it referring to the space marines of the Warhammer 40K universe."

Hogarth said it makes perfect sense for Games Workshop to trademark Warhammer-specific terms like "Adeptus Astartes," but laying claim to "space marine" is simply an attempt to "co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success."

"Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading," she continued. "I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith's space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else's, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else."

Games Workshop does hold a European trademark that covers a wider range of goods than the U.S. and U.K. marks, but as she noted in a January update, trademarks are limited to the territories in which they are granted, meaning that a European trademark cannot be enforced in the U.S.; furthermore, even the European trademark doesn't cover ebooks, yet that, and not the physical edition, is what was removed from Amazon because of the claim.

Unfortunately, Hogarth says she doesn't have the resources to take on Games Workshop's lawyers, so for now Spot the Space Marine remains out of reach and she is focusing instead on raising awareness of the issue. "For now, step one is to talk about this. Pass it on to your favorite news source. Tell your favorite authors or writers' organizations," she wrote. "To move forward, we need interest. Let's generate some interest."

Source: MCAH Online [http://mcahogarth.org/?p=10593]


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1337mokro

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Dec 24, 2008
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I think that is not entirely true. After all Aliens did it first.

Literal Space Marines. Heck if we go by that definition there are even older space marines in Starship Troopers. Heavy Armour Clad Warriors defending the Empire of Man against filthy Xenos?

You must have had a plagiarism field day when creating the board game digging through pre-1980's sci-fi. So no. You do not get to own a part of pop culture. Sad day for you.
 

Karadalis

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Apr 26, 2011
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I want FOX to sue games workshop for blatantly ripping off aliens with their tyranids... now that would be funny.
 

Soviet Heavy

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Oh for god's sakes. I'd read about this on DakkaDakka, but Games Workshop, just stop. Stop trying to act like you are anything more than a corporate shill. You want to argue originality, do you?

Starship Troopers



There's also an image of a 1950s sci fi picture out there that looks exactly like a Tau Fire Warrior.
 

Mr. Omega

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Jul 1, 2010
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"Space Marine" is just too generic a term. It existed long before GW ever existed, and it's been used plenty times since after they came around. It's a generic term, and a description: a Marine in space. Plus, GW wasn't exactly spouting out original idea after original idea in the 40K universe...

Now if they tried to trademark "SPESS MEHREENS", I'd be behind it. Right after they trademark "METAL BAWKSES".
 

DoomedSheridan

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I personally think this is completely ridiculous. The term "space marine" dates back to at least 1932 (Games Workshop wasn't around until 1975 or so by the way, so that's about 40 years prior) and referred simply to marines who were, well, in space. GW has been known to be sue happy, but at least they kept it restricted to their own IP and not broad terms (At least to my knowledge, and even their sue-happiness is rather dickish).
 

Pyrignis

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"In the grim darkness of 2013, there is only War... hammer 40K" is what de people of Games Workshop must have brainwashed themselves into believing.

I think it's a bit ridiculous that a company can "own" such a generic term.
 

Ranorak

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Feb 17, 2010
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Andy Chalk said:
Unfortunately, Hogarth says she doesn't have the resources to take on Games Workshop's lawyers, so for now Spot the Space Marine remains out of reach and she is focusing instead on raising awareness of the issue.
This bothers me so much lately.
Big companies have huge lawyer teams, thus they can get away with things.

Money buys the law.
Not right or wrong wins, but the one with the biggest budget.
 

Jennifer Atkinson

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Feb 6, 2013
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DVS BSTrD said:
With Zynga going under, I was wondering where we would be getting our continuous source of petty lawsuits.
Really, an indie author having part of her sales yanked and her income affected by over-reaching bullies trying to assert ownership of a sci-fi trope is petty? Really?
 

Jennifer Atkinson

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Feb 6, 2013
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hudsonzero said:
good, come up with your own term for space military men
Yeeeeeeah...because authors that work within the military sci-fi niche are such jerks for using an established trope. Hacks, the lot of them!
 

Andy Shandy

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Jun 7, 2010
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Jennifer Atkinson said:
DVS BSTrD said:
With Zynga going under, I was wondering where we would be getting our continuous source of petty lawsuits.
Really, an indie author having part of her sales yanked and her income affected by over-reaching bullies trying to assert ownership of a sci-fi trope is petty? Really?
I believe DVS meant Games Workshop were being petty.

At first, I thought this might have been something to do with the Space Marine video game publishing thing back since THQ went under, or something along those lines anyway.

However, this is them trying to trademark a trope, one that has existed long before any Warhammer Space Marines did.
 

voltair27

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Apr 9, 2012
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I thought GW would stay within their own IP. I was wrong.

Quick! Someone else copyright it and sue GW!
 

Jennifer Atkinson

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Feb 6, 2013
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Andy Shandy said:
Jennifer Atkinson said:
DVS BSTrD said:
With Zynga going under, I was wondering where we would be getting our continuous source of petty lawsuits.
Really, an indie author having part of her sales yanked and her income affected by over-reaching bullies trying to assert ownership of a sci-fi trope is petty? Really?
I believe DVS meant Games Workshop were being petty.

At first, I thought this might have been something to do with the Space Marine video game publishing thing back since THQ went under, or something along those lines anyway.

However, this is them trying to trademark a trope, one that has existed long before any Warhammer Space Marines did.
My apologies, then.
 

DoomedSheridan

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Feb 6, 2012
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hudsonzero said:
good, come up with your own term for space military men
First off, Games Workshop is hardly the first ones to use the term, second off, you realize that space marine is just a generic description, right? They're marines who happen to be in space. What would you rather they be called? Cosmic Warfighters?

Actually...
 

TimeLord

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As the article says, trademark "Adeptus Astartes" or something but not such a generic term as "Space Marine"

Can't see it succeeding to be honest