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
, 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]