My laptop crashed when I was writing this. My poor laptop has an issue where it just shuts down randomly, it needs a new motherboard and is out of warranty. So if this post seems a bit disjointed that’s why.
This afternoon I received a new infringement notice from Games Workshop. This time there infringement claim has specifically addressed specific items in my inventory. I'm thankful that they are actually addressing the reality of what I've uploaded for printing as opposed to the vague notion that they own everything under the sun.
Unfortunately they have specifically pointed out the "design" of armor marks again. Initially I had believed their previous statements in this regard covered the issue of the shoulder pad elements and Aquila trade mark. Sadly this time they specifically point to the female star marine parts in arms, legs, torsos, helms, and backpacks. I disagree on this. My understanding is that the models are covered under patent law and thus design elements aren't an issue but I can't afford to argue this point. If there was any question of whether I would have to redesign the female marines this answers it. It frustrates me because I'm reasonably sure that legally the female variants are different enough that even when sharing design elements they fall into fair use. However I can't deny that my intent with the models was to make them LOOK like their male counter parts that inspired them. As such denying they should be removed feels unethical to me.
No matter what I want that clear. I knew games workshop owns the rights to warhammer. However my intent was never to undermine them to the extent that they clearly believe I have. I was of the mind that Games Workshop was not producing certain products that I and others wanted. Either those products were not being produced at all or they had been produced and games workshop decided not to support them any longer and as a result abandoned them. Likewise I feel that Games Workshop's control over the likenesses, icons, and color schemes of space marine chapters is both legally and ethically dubious as many if not all of these designs should belong to their original creators not Games Workshop. I'm not sure why but these factors more than anything else have left my conscience clean on the matter. I didn't set out to deprive Games Workshop of funds. I set out to provide the gaming public with products games workshop doesn't. I don't want to get rich stealing sales from Games Workshop. I want to give back to the hobby I love in a way that Games Workshop just isn't doing. Ethically I don't see a problem with producing shoulder pads for customers who want them. Nor female marines. Nor out of print models. Nor guns. etc. Basically it encourages people to buy more actual products from Games Workshop. If I was out to steal sales I’d design a nearly identical product like Anvil Industry's steam knights designs. But of course I wanted to fill a hole in GW's product line that Games Workshop doesn't appreciate me filling. Sigh. That’s all I can really say, just … SIGH…
Games Workshop has also made a claim regarding my “Space Undead Insects” while this design is intended to be a replacement for their scarab models it does not look like their scarab models. It was intended to not look like their scarab models because their scarab designs are stupid. I chose to instead make the insect like robot be insect like not… stupid. Official scarabs are flat with no legs, no mandibles, not real bug like qualities. My scarabs are more bug like with proper legs and mandibles. The only thing remotely like an official scarab is the spinal column and single eye, and if they own that then robot skeletons the world over are infringing and I don’t believe that. I’m not going to push it until they take me to court though. I’ll simply listen to their feedback and change the fucking model. If they think they own a cyclopean insect I’ll give it two eyes. If they think they own skeletal spinal columns on robots, I’ll make it fucking tubing. They can’t own everything. Robot insects are real things that people at MIT are making right now. IP ends somewhere and if GW won’t define it for me I’ll test the waters until I find the edge myself.
Lastly and most troublingly is their statement of trademark on the term 40k. Now, in fairness they can’t claim a registered trademark unless they’ve actually registered a trademark. Copyrights are pretty much open ended but trademarks are documented. While I would think I could argue the trademark based on the capitalization of the letter “K” denoting the difference between the proper trademark and the numeric abbreviation I don’t have the money or legal counsel to deal with this. It’s easier to remove the “40k” moniker. Or it would be if I could change my shop name myself. I’ve contacted Shapeways but I’m not sure I can adjust my shop name at all without deleting it and restarting a new one. A process that deletes everything in my shop some of which I don’t have backups of yet. Even this blog has GW’s “trademarked” “40k” moniker as part of its URL. I’m sure I’ll get a notice about that too. But I can change that. Blogspot can let me change the URL with a single click. Not a problem. Shapeways could be an issue. Hopefully I hear back quickly so I can fix this.
I seriously hate Games Workshop at the moment. I feel simultaneously like I’m being threatened and patronized. Like a puppy that has yipped to loudly I’m not sure if GW has come over to pet me soothingly or beat me with a stick. I can’t see the harm my site name would have on the 40k brand but at the same time I know I could theoretically do some kind of damage to it vaguely somehow that I don't understand. I could make products they don’t want me to make and end up hurting their reputation if people think they made them. I can't see how anyone would mistake my products for theirs but whatever. At the same time even knowing that Games Workshop could be harmed I feel that chance is minimal and can’t help but imagine that they know I may have to delete me shop in order to change its name and are just being obtuse as a result.
It’s easy to imagine the CEO of GW sitting in a Nottingham tower laughing like king john. I doubt my particular situation has even been brought before him. But the image is still there. Perhaps I demonize Games Workshop because I’m not skilled enough or creative enough to create an equally powerful empire of miniatures. But it saddens me none-the-less to be attacked for trying to support a hobby I love. I’d not be surprised if this is all in my imagination. That the GW corporation is just an emotionless machine, it responds to my particular issues as nothing more than a bump a car runs over in the road. No malice, no particular disgruntlement, simply the bored curiosity of an office worker tired of his job. Perhaps the thin veneer of politeness is simply my in ability to comprehend the depth of their sincerity. Or perhaps it is the last vestiges of imperial condescension directed at an individual that is perceived as inferior.
I don’t know. But I wonder if deleting my shop would not be the best for all parties. I noticed a lot of shops I once visited are not updated anymore. A large group of people who design miniatures on Shapeways don’t sell them to the public. Perhaps I was to brazen to actually SELL something I designed. Obviously Games Workshop would argue that they designed these things and I stole them by copying them. I suppose the question is then what’s the point in trying to support the hobby when the creator of the hobby claims ownership over everything within it including that which it doesn't actively create?
EDIT: I added the footer from the Games Workshop legal teams emails. The statement of “confidential” is bullshit. Intellectual Property is a matter of PUBLIC record. If it wasn’t there would be no ability to enforce it. I have not signed a confidentiality agreement nor a nondisclosure agreement. As such you can’t stop my legal right to talk about the claims placed before me. I will say that the claims of Games Workshop as they apply to me can’t be construed as legal advice for the legal affairs of any individuals as the Claims are the views of Games Workshop and don’t constitute the actual law as interpreted by a Judge. I will continue to post the emails I recieve from Games Workshop on this issue as a matter of public record and free speech.
My response to Games Workshop (8 - 20 -12)
Dear Mr, Nanson
Like yourself I appreciate diligence regarding this matter. I am a simple hobbiest and take the interests of Games Workshop in this matter with great seriousness.
I want to assure you I am already complying with the requests of Games Workshop. I have already removed a number of products and will continue to remove additional products going forward. Unfortunately there is no automated or batch removal function in Shapeways which means I have to manually edit each item to delete it from my account. This process takes time and I appriciate your patience.
I’m sorry that my request for clarification was interpreted as a request for legal advice. I honestly assumed that when Games Workshop was deciding I was infringing they would have made a list of specific infringements for me to correct. As I understand the legal process the individual with a claim of infringement is responsible for defining that claim. My only intention was to insure I addressed all of Games Workshop’s claims of infringement. I didn’t mean to be requesting your legal expertise, only the specifics of the infringement. Regardless I’m working to comply with your requests so I see no need to consult legal counsel at this time. And besides I have no doubt that Games Workshop’s claims have merit or its legal councils wouldn’t pursue them.
That having been said, I will endeavor to remove items based on the “shoulder pad”, “logos” (I assume this is directed at Chapter logos) and “Aquila” design that Games Workshop claims as their intellectual property. I’m saddened by the loss of these designs particularly because Games Workshop has not made comparable products based on the Intellectual Property they claim. I do however understand the need for licensing and intellectual property as a whole and will comply.
I agree it is my responsibility to ensure my items don’t infringe intellectual property laws and I will do better to comply in the future. Up to and including seeking legal advice regarding my hobby if needs be. However, in spite of not having legal counsel I am aware of the current litigation between Games Workshop and Chapter House Studios. While I will comply with your wishes now I feel that I need to inform you that if the court decides you are not the Intellectual Property holder of any or all of these designs I will continue with my distribution of any public domain items at that time, which would be my right if that is found to be the case.
I will do my best to have the offending items offline within the time allotted. I will also attempt better judgment regarding what items and requests to fulfill in the course of my hobby so that I don’t violate games workshops Intellectual Property again.
Games Workshop Legal Notice (9-5-12)
Thank you for your continued cooperation in this matter and for removing several designs from your store. I appreciate you making the changes.
There are some remaining infringements in the store which I must ask you to remove as soon as possible.
There are some models which bear the Aquila registered trademark e.g. http://www.shapeways.com/model/325301/m7b1-star-marine-armor-torso-x5.htmlamong others.
There are a number of helmets, legs, arms, backpacks etc which combine to create your ‘Star Marines’. These parts, and their combined complete models, copy a significant part of Games Workshop’s Space Marine design. This includes various ‘marks’ of Space Marine armour and variants such as the ‘Techmarine’ and ‘Apothecary’.
There is also a set of Necron scarabs available.
Finally, I must inform you that ‘40K’ is a registered trademark belonging to Games Workshop Limited. Please remove it from your store name ‘Dynath40k’.
Please remove any remaining infringing auctions in the next 14 days and drop me an email when you have completed the removals.
I look forward to your notice.
We reserve all rights.
Group Legal Department
Games Workshop Group PLC
My response to Games Workshop (9-5-12)
Dear Mr. Nanson,
Thank you for again taking the time to address this issue Mr. Nanson. Firstly let me say I am grateful that this time specific infringements have been identified so that they may be addressed, as opposed to broad statements of infringement.
Thank you for calling the Aquilla to mind, I had uploaded the models over a year ago and as a result it had slipped my mind they had an Aquilla on the chest of several models. I would ask if it was viable to remove the Aquilla and list the revised torsos but your next infringement claim lists quite literally all parts of a figure so there is no point. My understanding is that the design of your parts falls under patent law which dictates that the individual expression of a specific item is protected not its design elements. As such using elements of a similar nature such as cabling or plating of a similar design on a different expression, IE the difference between male and female designs, would be publicly viable. The printing of backpacks, shoulder pads, and armor designs by other companies such as Scibor, MaxMini, etc. I thought bore this out. Regardless as I have neither the legal resources to argue my point nor the inclination to challenge the makers of 40k regarding their patents of their miniatures I’m forced to comply.
The robotic insects on my list are significantly different from the legless, mandibleless scarab design produced by games workshop. While I don’t desire to fight I’m not convinced you own the trademark on“insects”. I would be happy to discuss the specifics of this “infringement”but as a whole the design is significantly different than your established designs to the point that if the name wasn’t “space undead insects” most viewers would not consider them analogous to the GW Scarab product.
Lastly the trademark “40k” I was actually unaware of this trademark. I had avoided the full “40,000” and “Warhammer” but didn’t realize the abbreviation was trademarked. I’m at a loss as to how to edit my store name however. I will have to contact customer support at Shapeways to adjust this. If they can’t do that I suppose the only thing I can do is delete my store entirely and start a new one.
I thank you for calling these infringement claims to my attention. I’ll work on removing the “star marine” product line and altering my shop name, however would like specific clarification regarding what aspect of a robotic insect you have copyrighten, trademarked, etc.
Footer for Games Workshops Email Included for completeness (9-5-12)
Information in this email and any attachments is confidential, subject to copyright and must not be
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Games Workshop Limited, registered in England and Wales, under company number 1467092, and
registered at Games Workshop, Willow Road, Lenton, Nottingham NG7 2WS.
Unless stated otherwise by an authorised individual, nothing contained in this email is intended to create binding legal rights or obligations between you and Games Workshop in anyway, including but not limited to, in relation to settlement of any claims made by Games Workshop. This email is in no way meant to be taken as legal advice. If you are unsure of your rights or the implications of this email, you should obtain independent legal advice.