Electronic Arts Sues To Cancel Langdell's Trademarks

Electronic Arts has asked the United States to cancel five trademarks held by Tim Langdell's Edge Games, saying the marks have been effectively abandoned. In comments to Kotaku, EA portrayed its actions as done on behalf of the development community.

Langdell, at the centre of many controversies over the years regarding trademark rights to the word "Edge", has been involved in a similar dispute with Electronic Arts since 2007 concerning its title "Mirror's Edge." On Sept. 11, EA filed a petition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to wipe out five trademarks involved in the case, saying they have been threatened by Langdell for a year over the distribution of Mirror's Edge.

"EA has filed a complaint to put an end to legal threats over a trademark issue related to our game, Mirror's Edge," company spokesman Jeff Brown said Tuesday. "While this seems like a small issue for EA, we think that filing the complaint is the right thing to do for the developer community."

Langdell, in a statement to Kotaku, called Electronic Arts' petition "a desperate attempt by EA to see if they can win the right to use Mirror's Edge by forcibly removing Edge's legitimate rights to Edge." Langdell pointed to a USPTO ruling in his favour, from August 2008, which found EA's registration of the trademark "Mirror's Edge" had been granted in error, and the company's subsequent abandonment of the mark - made official Sept. 8 - "stands as an acceptance of Edge's rights."

The USPTO database does list the trademark "Mirror's Edge" as "abandoned" as of Sept. 8, 2009. When asked about the timing of EA's filing, Brown, the spokesman, said only that the company had been unsuccessful in its yearlong attempt to resolve the dispute, and "we feel it is important to establish the rights of developers in this situation. So we filed the petition to cancel those marks."

Brown also declined to comment when asked if the petition was at all related to any upcoming product announcements using the word "Edge." Nor would he specify how negotiations with Langdell broke down.

Over the years, Langdell has been accused of heavy-handed behaviour against developers who wittingly or unwittingly use the word "Edge", which he trademarked years ago for use in video games, and a slew of other associated products since then. In addition to the disagreement with EA, Langdell has been involved in a bitter dispute with Mobigame, whose iPhone game EDGE has appeared on the iTunes App Store and was later removed when he challenged Mobigame's usage of the title.

The notoriety surrounding this action in large part led to a campaign to have Langdell removed from the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association. Langdell voluntarily quit the board last month rather than face a removal vote.

"A lot of small developers who are faced with this situation settle claims because they don't know how, or can't afford to fight for their rights," said Brown, the EA spokesman. "We hope that as a result of this action, other developers will be less intimidated by unwarranted legal threats."

But Langdell counters that EA is trying to poison sentiment against his company, and that its accusations "sound like comments intended to sway indie game news reporters' opinion and deflect you away from the obvious fact that it is EA [that]indie developers need to be protected from."

In the filing, Electronic Arts alleges that Langdell has effectively abandoned these trademarks through disuse. While Langdell vigorously states his company is actively involved in the development of games, both Mobygames and this analysis say the last game published by Edge Games was in 1990.

Edge Games' Web site says it is developing four multiplatform titles, one of which "Racers," was released on Sept. 9. "Clearly, Edge has not abandoned its trademark and that allegation is obviously destined to fail," Langdell told Kotaku. Langdell's statement says Edge's games "are on general sale at this time as they have been at all times over the past many years."

Significantly, EA also alleges that Langdell fraudulently obtained the trademark registrations, filing out-of-date and even falsified specimens to obtain them. EA alleges two registrations, dated 1996 and 2006, used box covers from games published in 1989 and 1990 and were not examples of a mark used in commerce, especially as the 1990 game was developed for the since-discontinued Commodore Amiga. Another 2009 registration submitted an Edge mark used on the 1986 game Bobby Bearing, saying that game had been in use "continuously over the past five years," on mobile phones. EA claims that is false.

EA says two other registrations, in 2004 and 2005, were obtained by submitting a nonexistent magazine cover in one case, and a Hulk comic book published in the 1990s in another. (Langdell claims to have licensed trademarks to the two publications.)

Langdell flatly denied that Edge ever committed fraud in applying for its U.S. trademarks.

Langdell has also claimed that Mobigame told him, in an email published here, that it and Electronic Arts had formed some sort of partnership, to what end he did not say. In a lengthy public statement published last August, Langdeel seems to imply that EA and Mobigame might be working together "to seek to undermine our rights in EDGE," to get out of an agreement Langdell says Edge and EA had reached earlier.

Brown, the EA spokesman, said that to his knowledge EA has no formal relationship with Mobigame. A request for comment left with Mobigame was not answered as of publication time.

According to a notice sent by the USPTO, Langdell has until Oct. 27 to respond to EA's petition. Should the matter proceed to trial, that will begin in the summer of 2010.

Electronic Arts' filing may be downloaded here, in .pdf form.

Langdell, for his part, accuses EA of playing the bully in this matter.

"The key dispute for the past two to three years ... has always been between the multinational conglomerate EA and Edge fighting for its rights as a relatively small indie developer up against the giant corporate bully, EA," Langdell wrote. "It is a great pity that another fellow indie developer, Mobigame, got caught in the crossfire, but at least EA are now out in the open with their fight, now openly trying to stifle the legitimate rights of indie developers."


Comments

    Is it bad that this is the one time I want to see EA win something?

      That and maybe help support in L4D2. I think they are trying to put effort into helping devs/consumers(where it helps them too) in order to make them look good, and rid of that "selfish/greedy" reputation that they've recieved.

      I hope Landall loses to this trademark bullcrap. It's like No one can use the number '7' since M$ are using it in 'Windows 7'.

      They need to stop people exploiting the trademark system.

      Not at all. Someone had to challenge Langdell eventually, at least EA have the power to actually end him.

      Plus.. look at that smarmy face. If anybody deserves his comeuppance, it's him.

      I don't see EA has a bad company anymore.
      Ever since last year, it seems to me that they turned a new leaf-ish.

    Oooh that last paragraph boils my blood. This vile trademark troll trying to pretend that he's HELPING small developers such as the ones he's attempting to strongarm into financing his do nothing lifestyle?

    EA, in addition to invalidating the trademark, get some guys to take him out, strip him naked and hit him with sticks until he cries and then post the video on youtube

    There's just to ethical or legal arguement in which this guy does not come of as a douche bag.

    When I rule the world (come on freeze gun prototype #47) this guy and that horrid fanta pants Bobby Kotick will have to fight with rusty knives in the thunder dome to win the award of biggest game industry douche bag.

    This makes me hate you just a little bit less, EA.

    I think that the interesting thing is that EDGE is currently in Development of a game called 'MIRRORS'. It's kinda like that whole Cadbury purple thing - and when challenged in court that didn't stand up.

    Oh boy, I know I'm going to get flamed for this... but what the hell, I'm bored and it's lunchtime.

    Tim L, like anyone who takes out a trademark, is entitled to defend it. Everyone who has trademarks is.

    When you want to name something, you do a trademark search, and if it looks like there might be some controversy, you either try to reach some settlement with the trademark holder, or choose a different name. It's not rocket science.

    Would Mirror's Edge be a completely different game if it was named 'Mirror's Blade' instead? Or any other name for that matter?

    If this was any other indie developer having his rights challenged, you would all be for the indie developer.

    Just because this person's name is Tim Langdell, and Kotaku used a pic that isn't the most flattering, everyone seems to assume that he shouldn't have the legal right to defend himself.

    I've never met the guy, but I've been following these events about EDGE for a while, and it amazes me that everyone is so quick to assign Tim L as the bad guy for pursuing something that he is legally entitled to.

      Good to see someone playing Devil's Advocate here Jarrod :)

      However I'd go have a look at The Independent Gaming Source's page on the whole Tim/Edge gaming saga: http://www.tigsource.com/pages/edge-games

      Highlights including: Going after Namco for "Soul Edge", the whole EA/Mirrors Edge nonsense, going after comics or magazines using falsified evidence etc. If any other Indie developer carried on like he has, then I'd be all for people taking action against them.

        Hey Aaron,

        A good article with far more resources than I can bring to bear at the moment, although notably TIGS have produced several 'anti-Tim L' articles.

        I'll let courts decide whether he's used falsified evidence or not (I won't base my decision on web-articles alone, even from our beloved Kotaku) - but he still has a right to defend his trademark.

        In fact, if he did not choose to chase possible infringements, then his trademark would have indeed slipped into disuse, and the rights would be taken from him.

        So regardless of whether he would win such cases, from a legal standpoint, he has to be seen to be actively defending his trademark rights on fear of loosing them.

        And for what it's worth, Tim should be whipping his PR team into a friendly, kind, and respctful frenzy (and possibly get them to circulate other photos as well) to help portray his actions, and indeed legal obligations, in a more positive way.

      It's true that he is only holding up his legal rights, which is something EA has been known for doing quite agressively, but this goes beyond common sensibilities. What's legal isn't always right and, in my opinion, the trademark should never have been issued for such a common word (particularly in the context of the entertainment industry.)

      It would be more acceptable if this Tim fellow had a line of games called Edge which could be defamed, but he doesn't.

      While my knowledge of trademark law is sketchy (read: non-existent), common sense dictates that this man be put to rest.

    How can someone defend such a douche who trademarks a commonly used word? What next, a trademark on the use of the words "Legend" or "War" in gaming?

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