Mike Dodgson
Canada
North York
ON
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Hello all,

As a new designer I've started like many of you ... played games and felt "this could be done better". Of course this lead to the development of new game mechanics that would make several games different, and to my point of view, more fun.

Question:
======================
So if I were to develop my own custom dice and "rules enhancements", for sale on Amazon for Warhammer, would I get sued?

I'm thinking of this as being like a module or game scenario.


Research:
======================
I found this ( http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Warhammer_40k:Copyrights ) and the related link for "remix" states that I need to give credit to the authors. I would certainly do this.

I'm not a lawyer so a quick read did not lead me to believe I would be at risk.


What if it succeeds ...
=======================
In the surprising situation that the game supplement actually did sell well, if Warhammer folks wanted to implement the changes, do they have any obligation to compensate me?
(I'd suspect they would simply make a slight tweak and take the idea)


Thanks all,
(And yes I know you are not a lawyer and not legally bound by your opinion, but if you can give me a hint if you have experience in the area that would be great )

Mike
 
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Ben Greig
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games workshop is well known for for being very aggressive in any and all legal action in protection of their IP, (correctly or incorrectly)

so even if this would be ok normally i'd advise staying well away from selling anything based on anything from gamesworkshop
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Boaty McBoatface
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GW are trademark and copyright trolls, and they have a habit of not telling you until the summons appears.

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Andrew H
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I think there might be some legal ways to do what you suggest, however I have doubts that you could find a lawyer to help you, especially with the Warhammer IP. The parent company is known for protecting their brand, and have gone after fan made games or 3D models. Usually they send a letter, and the poster complies, so I don't know that anyone has been technically sued, but the letter was the first step if the files were to remain. With that risk (and thus a lower chance of the challenger making money), I think most lawyer would avoid the issue.
 
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Barry Harvey
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See that suspicious black van with darkened windows that's just parked up outside your door?

Seriously, the GWaffia will send you C&D notices with no mention of precisely what copyright/trademark/patent you've broken, just that you're going to be in trouble if you don't delete everything instantly. That's how they roll.
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Jake Staines
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slatersteven wrote:
GW are trademark and copyright trolls


I think "trolls" is the wrong term, since they do actually (sometimes periodically) sell the things they have trademarks and copyrights over as their main business, and they have legitimate (if perhaps unnecessary) complaints against a lot of the people they go after. But they're certainly very aggressive. Not to mention that this is the company that decided they had a trademark on the term "Space Marine" and tried to sue random SciFi authors who'd been using the term (which has been in common currency in SciFi since, like, the 1930s or something) for completely unrelated pieces of fiction. They probably thought they were being quite reasonable, because inside the GW bubble the term really does only apply to their one specific usage, but it does show that they're willing to send their lawyers after people for more or less any imagined transgression.




Things like custom dice you can probably get away with, just avoid using any of their trademarks. There are companies who produce - for example - "block dice" which are functionally identical to the ones in Blood Bowl, and they get away with it because they're not "Blood Bowl Block Dice", and they don't use exactly the same images as the original GW ones. Stuff like that you can manage - stuff like unofficial modules which plug directly into a GW game are dangerous, if nothing else because you'll have to mention the product in question to get it across that your product is compatible. UK patent law unequivocally doesn't allow you to patent game mechanisms, but you're still obliged to steer clear of their copyrights and trademarks.
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Boaty McBoatface
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Bichatse wrote:
slatersteven wrote:
GW are trademark and copyright trolls


I think "trolls" is the wrong term, since they do actually (sometimes periodically) sell the things they have trademarks and copyrights over as their main business, and they have legitimate (if perhaps unnecessary) complaints against a lot of the people they go after. But they're certainly very aggressive. Not to mention that this is the company that decided they had a trademark on the term "Space Marine" and tried to sue random SciFi authors who'd been using the term (which has been in common currency in SciFi since, like, the 1930s or something) for completely unrelated pieces of fiction. They probably thought they were being quite reasonable, because inside the GW bubble the term really does only apply to their one specific usage, but it does show that they're willing to send their lawyers after people for more or less any imagined transgression.
And that is what I meany by Trolling, applying their TM to everything and it's dog in the hope no one will bite them.
 
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Mike Dodgson
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Thanks everyone for your feedback. Ok, so to paraphrase someone else's IP "Danger Will Rogers, Danger!".

Ok, it seems like the best path wold be to make generic conversion tables for generic terms for games like Wahammer, Battletech etc. and never mention Wiz/GW trademarks.

Thanks again.

PS: does anyone think that new rules for futuristic warriors or large robotic battles that could use your old miniatures would be worthwhile? Perhaps I should call it "Scrapheap Battles"?

Cheers,
Mike
 
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Ian Richard
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I love the fact that all of the advice is "Don't even think about it solely because it's GW. They are insane and will hunt you down and rip you apart if they even suspect infringement."

After laughing at the mass paranoia I offer my advice... Everyone here is absolutely right. There are very few companies as... umm... dedicated to hunting down potential infringement.

If it involves GW, don't bother trying. Commercial/freeware/fan-work/Same Alphabet it doesn't matter, if you're lucky they'll just shut you down.






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Alex Beck
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Bichatse wrote:
...just avoid using any of their trademarks.


I think this is the key point, if you produced rules that covered generic "space warriors", "army soldiers" and "space elves" that could be used with GW figures but never referenced any of their trademarks or their background (which is also protected by copyright) then they'd have trouble suing you. Not saying they still wouldn't try of course...

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Jake Staines
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slatersteven wrote:
And that is what I meany by Trolling, applying their TM to everything and it's dog in the hope no one will bite them.


Yeah, I'm just being pedantic, really - usually "trolling" in an IP sense refers to copyrighting/patenting/trademarking something that you expect other people want to use specifically for the purpose of charging them to use it, not because you actually want to use it yourself. Like the patent trolls who buy up portfolios of patents, never manufacture a single item themselves and just make their money out of licenses.


I would not be the least bit surprised if the guys at GW HQ honestly believed that it was reasonable to trademark "Space Marine", on the grounds that if your only real exposure to SciFi/SciFi gaming is GW and you don't do much research it would be easy to believe that GW Space Marines were the only Space Marines. It's almost certainly the first context I heard the name in, growing up in the late 80s, early 90s with White Dwarf on the newsagent shelf, a GW store in town, licensed Ian Watson novels in the library and no Internet.
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bahz mukslinger
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There used to be a document put together by fans, INAT it was called, it might still exist. That was basically a set of rules modifications and clarifications, but it was free, and primarily used for certain tournaments or amongst a certain group of like-minded players.

I think, based on their history, when you start to make money off anything related to their IP, when they find out, they will shut you down. Even then, it's chancy.

Correct me if I'm wrong, they went after fan-sites who had images of the product and that seems to fall under fair use to me, but that doesn't stop gw. You can take a picture of their stuff though, I think, maybe, I'm not even sure I can type the words space marine.

If you start taking their rule system, tweak it, make addons and sell it. Think about how it might be similar to why Hasbro is going after Cryptozoic for hex. Think about the Wizards open gaming license, and how they allowed third parties to do what you suggest, ie pathfinder, and I think they are no longer allowing such activity for 5th (at least I think they are not). Chapterhouse scored a win/loss with gw, but they had lawyers and money.

Throw it up on kickstarter, you might get a cease and desist the same day. I wouldn't though, that's not good advice, hahaha. Right or wrong. Heck, even if you are right and not infringing, without money to throw at lawyers to defend yourself, you'll technically lose.


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John Cosgrove
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Plenty of people are publishing alternative 'Sci Fi Miniature Wargame Systems' where the miniatures specified are agnostic.

Remove all reference to any existing system. Your rules must be COMPLETELY stand alone. I wouldn't even use conversion tables mate. Make your own *substantively new work* and let people decide which miniatures they want to use.

Safest way if you intend to monetize.


- Omni
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Captain Nemo
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Omnisiah wrote:
Plenty of people are publishing alternative 'Sci Fi Miniature Wargame Systems' where the miniatures specified are agnostic.

Remove all reference to any existing system. Your rules must be COMPLETELY stand alone. I wouldn't even use conversion tables mate. Make your own *substantively new work* and let people decide which miniatures they want to use.

Safest way if you intend to monetize.


- Omni


Exactly so, such as Alien Squad Leader. Ignoring the issue of the term SPACE MARINE publishers have every right to maintain their intellectual property rights. The BBC created Dr Who and rigorously protect their property rights i.e. the right to make money from their creation; there is nothing amiss with doing so.
 
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Ian Brocklebank
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Look at Mantic. They basically started producing models which could be used as direct substitutes for other Warhammer Fantasy models.
Produce rules that can be used with any miniatures and you will be fine.
 
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A Wong
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Omnisiah wrote:
Plenty of people are publishing alternative 'Sci Fi Miniature Wargame Systems' where the miniatures specified are agnostic.

Remove all reference to any existing system. Your rules must be COMPLETELY stand alone. I wouldn't even use conversion tables mate. Make your own *substantively new work* and let people decide which miniatures they want to use.

Safest way if you intend to monetize.


- Omni


This. There is nothing that special about Wh40k or Warhammer besides really cool models, and the idea of Chaos Gods (which was, as I remember, stolen from another work).

They don't even have the most popular evil space Gods - Cthulu rules that area by far.

Craft a really good Rules system for fantasy / sci-fi battles, and then you can graft any good Story to them to complete the game.

Good luck!
 
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