Retailer Games Workshop (GW) has served a legal notice to author and artist MCA Hogarth over what it claims is unauthorised use of the term 'space marine'. The creator of the popular Warhammer 40,000 series believe use of the term infringes its copyright.
The book in question is called Spots the Space Marine and Hogarth has seen her receive a trademark infringement notice and the book itself is no longer on sale on Amazon.com.
A report in Kotaku says GW believes its "recent entry into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term 'space marine' in all formats".
Hogarth made this statement on her personal blog: "In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entry into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term "space marine" in all formats.
"If they chose to choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that's been a part of its canon since its inception. Space marines were around long before Games Workshop. But if GW has their way, in the future, no one will be able to use the term 'space marine' without it referring to the space marines of the Warhammer 40K universe.
"I used to own a registered trademark. I understand the legal obligations of trademark holders to protect their IP. A Games Workshop trademark of the term 'Adeptus Astartes' is completely understandable. But they've chosen instead to co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success. Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading.
"I want there to be a world where Heinlein and EE Smith's space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else's, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else."
A report by Escapist magazine says GW does own a trademark for "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint."
It now remains to be seen if the trademark, which does not explicitly mention either books or e-books, will be allowed to stand. However, it is unlikely Hogarth will press ahead and challenge GW on her own, as she candidly admits:
"To engage a lawyer to defend me from this spurious claim would cost more money than I have, certainly more than the book has ever earned me. At this point I'm not sure what course to take. I interviewed five lawyers and all of them were willing to take the case, but barring the arrival of a lawyer willing to work pro bono, the costs of beginning legal action start at $2000 and climb into the five-figure realm when it becomes a formal lawsuit. I have very little free time and very little money. But if enough people show up to this fight, I'll give what I can to serve that trust."
According to TV Tropes, the term 'space marine' was first used in the Lensman Series in 1934.
Warhammer 40K Film to Come
Meanwhile, Ultramarines (the CG Warhammer 40K film) that released in 2010, starring the voices of John Hurt, Terrence Stamp and Sean Pertwee will see a Blu-Ray/DVD release on 5 March. The film is available for order on Amazon. According to TG Daily, the disc will feature bonus material like an analysis of the film world and a digital graphic novel.
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