Three days ago, Notch, the creator of Minecraft, made a post on his blog detailing a lawsuit against him and his company, Mojang. The fact that Mojang has entered a legal battle isn’t all that shocking in itself. Game companies seem to get sued quite often. The “who” and “why” of the situation are what take me by surprise.
First we have Mojang, an indie game developer studio based in Stockholm, Sweden. They are a relatively new entity (founded in 2009), consisting only of 9 developers. Of course, with the rising popularity of Minecraft, they have seen much success. Still, who would be heartless enough to sue such a small, innocent company?
Bethesda — that’s who.
I was disappointed when I found out that Bethesda was responsible for this situation (well, it may not be entirely their fault, but we’ll get back to that). They created one of my all-time favorite games, Fallout 3. From a less personal view point, they are also much bigger than Mojang. Bethesda was founded in 1986, 23 years before Mojang was born. It seems a bit like a case of the veteran stepping on the new guy. This wouldn’t be so bad if the reason for the lawsuit was justifiable, but…
…it’s not. Not really.
“About half a year ago, our lawyers recommended us to register “Minecraft” as a trademark, so we did. I had voted against it initially, but we did it anyway. Better safe than sorry, and all that. At the same time, we also applied for “Scrolls”, the new game we’re working on. We knew of no similarly named games, and we had even googled it to make sure. I’m not even sure if you CAN trademark individual words, like “Scrolls”, but we sent in the application anyway.”
As explained in the above quote taken from Notch’s blog, Mojang trademarked a the name “Scrolls” for their new game. I agree that trademarking single words seems kind of ridiculous, and the lawsuit may have been caused the act.
Bethesda believes the “Scrolls” trademark conflicts with their existing trademark for “The Elder Scrolls,” their popular game series.
Come on, Bethesda. Do you really think players are going to see the name “Scrolls” and be confused? Mojang’s game isn’t even going to be vaguely similar to The Elder Scrolls. Even if Bethesda’s lawsuit is legitimate, and I don’t believe it is, couldn’t they cut Mojang some slack? They’re just trying to get off the ground and start up another game. I think this situation could have just as easily been solved over coffee. A lawsuit was at all necessary.
Notch, like me, loves Bethesda. He gives them the benefit of the doubt, saying, “I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is.”
I hope you’re right, Notch. This whole situation is a shame, and I hope Mojang and Bethesda can come to an out-of-court settlement. It never should have entered the court in the first place.
What are your thoughts on the lawsuit? Is Bethesda right for suing Mojang? How will this all end? Let us know with a comment below, or tell us in the forums.
On a related note, you can learn all about Scrolls and apply to be an alpha tester here.