Games Workshop Claims Copyright On 'Space Marine', Says Author

It's about as ubiquitous a term in science fiction — and video games — as "starship", "lightspeed" and "datapad", but an author at the centre of a copyright struggle claims that Games Workshop, the company behind the Warhammer 40K franchise, is trying to take legal possession of the term "space marine".

Author MCA Hogarth, who wrote the book "Spots The Space Marine", says she has been served with a trademark infringement notice from Games Workshop, on the grounds that the company's "recent entrée into the ebook market gives them the common law trademark for the term 'space marine' in all formats."

If this is indeed Games Workshop's intent — and we're yet to confirm it is — then wow. Yes, the term "Space Marine" is a fundamental one in the Warhammer 40K universe, to the point we got a video game recently called simply Space Marine, but if Games Workshop thinks it can somehow muscle in and take over the term, then boy.

For one, they did not invent the term. It was widely-used in science-fiction for decades before the invention of

Warhammer 40K

, dating back to the 1930s and having been employed by sci-fi greats such as Robert A. Heinlein in his Starship Troopers series.

Secondly, it's not as though it's the only property to regularly use the term, with everything from Aliens to Doom (where you play as a member of the United States Space Marine Corps) asking you to assume the role of a Space Marine.

Obviously, being a single human and not a wealthy company, Hogarth can't fight the claim in court, and as a result Spots The Space Marine has been yanked from Amazon (interestingly, Amazon didn't have to do this, but willingly elected to at the request of Games Workshop).

"I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith's space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else's," she writes, "and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else."

In the Future, All Space Marines Will Be Warhammer 40K Space Marines [MCAH Online, via Boing Boing]


Comments

    Do some research as this is not new. The end credits for Aliens states that Space Marine is a registered trademark of Games Workshop.

      Reeeeeally? Not sure about that. There was a similar story about Blizzard having to credit GW for the term as used in Starcraft, but I'm pretty confident that that was a hoax.

      Nope, only the action figures.
      Despite "rogue trader" coming out a year after aliens.

      Your are full of Sh*t Na'vi. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwitlw_aliens-credits-1986_shortfilms No where in the credits does it even state that Space Marines are registered as a trademark to Games Workshop. I have been a longtime fan of GW and rogue trader didn't even come out till one year after the Aliens movie. I love how kids like you "assume" to have the facts and then tell others to do the research without even having done it themselves.

    I think you may have deleted a section of a paragraph
    "Warhammer 40K
    , dating back to the 1930s and having been employed by sci-fi greats such as Robert A. Heinlein in his Starship Troopers series."

    I hope this story goes viral and Games workshop gets slammed. This is ridiculous.
    Also, shame on Amazon.

    That's really stupid, seeing as I'd hardly say they even popularised the term, let alone come up with it. I didn't hear Karel Čapek crying over others using the term 'robot'. But then again, I wasn't born yet.

    I think the case could be made that the term 'space marine' is generic enough to not be a trademark any more. Afterall, they didnt invent the word 'space' or the word 'marine'. Could the royal navy sue for improper use of the word 'marine'?

    There's a long list of trademarks that have lost their status because of becoming a generic term; Apsrin, Thermos, Yo-Yo, Zipper, etc.

    Whether or not owning the words "Space Marine" is silly or not, the point everyone seems to be missing is this - Does GW actually own the trade mark "Space Marine".

    If they do, then tough... they own the name and you can't use it for your own business (without permission). If as the first commenter has stated that Aliens credits GW, then this author has no leg to stand on.
    That's like saying I'm going to write a book about talking cars can call them all Optimus Primes.

    EDIT: there are 2 more issues here. Whether or not they trademark transfers into the ebook medium (I assume that for a trademark it doesn't really matter what the medium is), and in my opinion the problem is probably with the title.
    The term "Space marine" has been used for years, But I don't recall it being used in the title. If you refer to the troops as space marines inside the book, then just give credit and recognise the trademark, but to use the trademark in the title to actually promote and sell the book would be a breach of trademark.
    That being said, I'm not a lawyer.

    Last edited 08/02/13 9:41 am

      Just checked the GW Trademark lists.. and yeah, they have trademarked "Space Marine"
      http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/content/article.jsp?pIndex=5&aId=3900002&start=6&_requestid=157218

        I did a quick TM search in Aus and UK - they don't have the TM registered in Australia, but they do in the UK - but not in regards to books.

          "®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2013, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world."

      They are claiming that it is a common law trademark - something that I am assuming means they don't have it registered as a trademark but they claim that because of their use of it it has become distinctly their own.

      I think you are being a bit harsh though; trademarks cant be descriptive of the product - and space marine is pretty damn descriptive. I wish the author had the money to fight this just to slap GW in the face for being so stupid.

        I don't think we can make GW out to be the mega bad guy here just because they are protecting their trademarks.
        According to the list (Thanks @chuloopa) they also own trademarks for "Orks" and "Inquisitor".
        It's unfortunate that they are taking legal action against a small private writer but you can't set a precedent.

        EDIT: spelling

        Last edited 08/02/13 4:30 pm

          Which kind of explains inconsistencies in naming practices. I prefer the species to be called "Orks" with a K not "Orcs" with a C. Now I know why hardly anybody does that, it is due to copyright.

        I'm not sure of the exact specifics, but if the character 'space marine' in the ebook is similar to the space marines (SPESSH MAHHRINES) from GW then there is an issue.

        Space Marine is trademarked in the UK so most western law courts - especially in countries where Games Workshop operates/sells its licence would recognise the trademark and agree with them under the law.

        There is also the reasonable person test that needs to be applied - would a person taking the book at face value think that the book was licensed by GW?

        I'm not supporting games workshop here - they priced me out of my favourite hobby & past-time - but they have more than a leg to stand on if certain aspects mentioned above are correct.

          A person with the money to fight this would move to have any TM for space marine to be declared void - because its purely descriptive, (it would be like Heinz TM'ing 'tomato' just because they are like the biggest tomato sauce maker).

          There is a TM infringement action where it bypasses the classes the TM is registered in but only if the mark is sufficiently well known. I don't think 'space marine' would even pass this.

          Also I think they would fail any 'deceptively similar' test just because most of the public either isn't that familiar with warhammer 40k and/or knows that space marine is a fairly widely used sci-fi cliche.

          Finally to attract TM protection you have to be registered in the country where the infringement has occurred.

          This is all based on my understanding on trademark law here in Australia. But our legislation is based on the UK equivalent so I doubt its that different over there.

      Well the point is they SHOULDN'T own the trademark, it's clearly something that the patent office should have denied.

      Also I find it outrageous that just because she cannot fight the claim, she automatically loses? Typical AMERICAN system where whoever is the richest wins.

        Depends when it was granted. If they trade marked it back in 1989 why shouldn't they own it?
        Also GW is not an American company, and I believe this is not about the American system at all....

        Last edited 08/02/13 4:32 pm

          I didn't say it was in America, I said it was an American system. (Whereby stupidity rules).

          Regardless, even if they did trademark it in 1989 they shouldn't have been granted it; space marine is not a unique word to them, as many other comments have said it was in use long before.

    Actually it is all there, just a fat fingering of the enter key, it should read thus:

    "For one, they did not invent the term. It was widely-used in science-fiction for decades before the invention of Warhammer 40K, dating back to the 1930s and having been employed by sci-fi greats such as Robert A. Heinlein in his Starship Troopers series."

      Which is supposed to be in response to tofuzombie but I just woke up and fail at interneting -_-

    This is kind of like getting "windows" or "apple" trademarked, only a moron would let it get through.
    Point of interest, Starship troopers was "mobile infantry". Heinlein used Space marine in Misfit and long watch.
    E.E Smiths lensmen series used "Galactic marine"

    I love how the article is treating this as a new thing. Games Workshop have owned the term "Space Marine" since at least the 90's, and probably earlier than that.

      According to Wikipedia Epic: Space Marines was released in 1989.

    To nitpick, they're not "space marines" in Aliens, they're "colonial marines".

    Well if that's the case then LucasArts should claim copyright on the word 'Stormtrooper'. Star Wars used it before Warhammer 40K, and you can easily argue that Stormtrooper has become synonymous with Star Wars even if LucasArts doesn't have a trademark on the word. If GW are gonna be dicks about it and force a write to take down her book over the use of Space Marines, and they should do the same with any product of theirs that includes the word Stormtroopers (and yes i realize that Star Wars' word is Stormtrooper, as opposed to Storm Trooper in W40K, still though.....dicks much?)

      thing is the term stormtrooper or Sturmtruppen goes back to world war one. they where specialised German soldiers trained in infiltration tactics and attacking trenchess o i dont think lucas could trademark the term stormtrooper as it is a commonly used word in many works. only thing he could trademark is there likeness, and even then if i recall he lost a case to someone selling replica stroomtrooper helmets

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