More GW vs Chapter House News

The firm that represented Chapter House in their legal fight against Games Workshop has released the below statement. Aside from the implications regarding IP and Trademarks for the industry as a whole it does throw Games Workshop into a fairly damning light. Not that I imagine they care. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes them more aggressive or opens their eyes to a community eager to return to the old days of summer campaigns and community support.

Thanks to Lexicanum for sharing the below:

Chapterhouse Attorneys:
“Winston & Strawn Defeats Hundreds of Trademark and Copyright Infringement Claims on Behalf of Pro Bono Client”

“In a classic David-versus-Goliath battle, Winston & Strawn LLP represented Chapterhouse Studios LLC on a pro bono basis in a cutting-edge federal trademark and copyright dispute in the Northern District of Illinois (Games Workshop Limited v. Chapterhouse Studios LLC 1:10-cv-8103). The verdict of this jury trial, held in June 2013 before Judge Matthew Kennelly, confirms that copyright and trademark law should not be used to block add-on products. Winston & Strawn has litigated the case since 2010, and co-counsel law firm Marshall Gerstein joined the matter in 2012.

“This was a classic case of trademark and copyright bullying by a much bigger Plaintiff,” said Jennifer Golinveaux, partner in Winston & Strawn’s San Francisco office. “I am proud of the investment made by the firm, and the many attorneys who devoted themselves to making sure the intellectual property laws were not misused to squash a much smaller player.”

Games Workshop manufactures Warhammer 40,000, a tabletop battle game that works with armies of miniature figures and vehicles, while Chapterhouse sells customized add-on parts for the figures and vehicles used in the game. The United Kingdom-based Games Workshop, a company with $200 million per year in revenues, alleged more than 200 claims of copyright and trademark infringement against Chapterhouse, a small business run out of an individual’s garage in Texas. Games Workshop argued that it was seeking a complete shutdown of Chapterhouse’s entire business and although Games Workshop initially sought over $400,000 in damages, by the end of the two-week jury trial, the plaintiff dropped its damages demand to only $25,000.

The jury deliberated for more than two days and found that Chapterhouse could continue to make and sell over a hundred products without fear of copyright infringement. The jury also confirmed that Chapterhouse could continue to use most of Games Workshop’s asserted trademarks when selling compatible parts, including all nine of Games Workshop’s registered trademarks. Together with the summary judgment wins, the jury’s verdict confirmed Chapterhouse can continue to make and sell 111 products that Games Workshop hoped to block using copyright laws, and can continue to use 104 words and phrases that Games Workshop said were trademarked.

Imron Aly, lead trial attorney and partner in Winston & Strawn’s Chicago office added, “It was a pleasure to represent a small entrepreneur like Nicholas Villacci of Chapterhouse, who has a passion for his work and wanted to see his business survive.”

Julianne Hartzell, partner at co-counsel law firm Marshall Gerstein added, “We are proud that we were able to help protect Chapterhouse against the overreaching claims made by Games Workshop in such a substantial trademark and copyright dispute.””

GW vs Chapter House Verdict

The legal battle that has been raging for months between Games Workshop and Chapter House has a verdict. The below is taken from Bell of Lost Souls and remember, although there are some pretty staggering implications there has not, as of yet, been a final judgement. But if things stay as they are it could mean that accessories companies would be able to produce parts under fair use without having to pay Games Workshop a penny…

This is a Jury Verdict, and has not yet become a Final Judgement

Breaking down the counts along the different categories we have:

Copyright Claims
160 claims alleged against CHS
-GW won on 1/3 of the claims, including items such as CHS’ Powerfists
-CHS won on 2/3 of the claims, including the use of the underlying shape and size of GW Shoulderpads.

General Trademark Claims
9 claims alleged against CHS
-CHS won all 9 claims, including either no infringement, or fair use of the GW trademarks on CHS’ website.

Disputed Trademark Claims
21 disputed trademark claims alleged against CHS
CHS won 11 claims
GW won 10 claims

GW Trademarks ruled “Previously Used in Commerce” Claims
61 claims alleged against CHS
CHS won 35 claims
GW won 27

Notable Trends and Individual Products Under Dispute
CHS lost on some individual products including:
-Doomseer
-Dark Elf Arch Tortress

CHS won on some individual products including:
-Jetbike
-Super-heavy walker model
-Lizard Ogre

Damages Awarded:
CHS ordered to pay GW damages of $25,000 USD

Both sides may appeal the ruling.

Thoughts and Implications:
It’s looking like however CHS as an entity comes out of this ruling, the implications for the 3rd party industry are profound.

-The ruling of no infringement for the use of the underlying shape and size of GW shoulderpads is now on the legal record.
-Possibly more important is not guilty verdicts on the use of GW trademarks and terms on the CHS website.
-While certain CHS products themselves may disappear from the Earth in the aftermath of this case, it looks like the verdict may have provided a clear blueprint for the 3rd party accessory bits market. One that allows legal use of certain GW trademarks and terms in a way that goes way beyond what Nottingham themselves ever wished to allow.

Chapterhouse vs GW

It’s not news that Chapterhouse and Games Workshop are currently embroiled in a legal battle over copyright infringement and claim to various copyrightable materials etc. I read an update this evening in which Chapterhouse won a minor victory which could potentially open them up to a much bigger one as they brought Games Workshop’s credibility into doubt.

Now I don’t want to get dragged into the whys and wherefores because ultimately it’s far too complex for me to understand lacking the legal training needed. All I understand is this: both genuinely believe they hold copyright over an idea/s.

Never let it be said I feel sorry for Games Workshop. Their recent conduct – akin to Doctor Evil’s misguided attempts at supervillainy which end with hilarious results – has left me feeling increasingly hollow about that side of my hobby (hence the lack of Primarch articles) but I do understand their desire to want to protect their ideas. And Chapterhouse for that matter.

To be clear I’m not saying that’s what they’re doing. It’s just as likely they want to stop anyone else from having a good idea – if Spots the Space Marine is anything to go by – but for argument’s sake let’s just assume that the legal department is merely executing the wishes of the development team who work hard to produce a rich and vibrant universe set in a game mechanic that’s creaking beneath the weight of their ambition.

With that assumption made (so please don’t fan rage me) I kind of get where they’re coming from. When I’m not working, writing this blog, playing the odd game or not putting brush to model I’m writing. Now because I suffer from the same short attention span that all wargamers are afflicted with, I’m writing a few things. A sci-fi novel or two, a book that treads the line between a rom-com and a sit-com as well as two games that I’m actively working on and two more in a draw for another time. All the ideas are mine and I’ve worked hard to cultivate them, distinguish them from anything else and make them believable.

In many ways, regardless of my feelings towards Games Workshop now, as a wise (and bitter) thirty year old, I owe Games Workshop a lot. Aside from their games getting me into the hobby I love, they showed me how background is supposed to be written. Finding that perfect blend between variety, depth and ambiguity is what keeps us wanting more and what I try and create in my wargaming efforts. There have been times as I’ve tried to piece together histories of the various factions I’m balked at the enormity of what I was trying to create and fully appreciated why they have as many people on staff as they do. It’s a big, hard, difficult task. One in which a mistake or an inconsistency can shatter that sense of immersion and kill a game.

It’s well documented how much I love fluff over rules. I’ll play an average game if the fluff is great and the models are cool because that’s what fires my imagination. I don’t see models on a board, I see titanic space fleets or ranks of super soldiers. Models aren’t removed from the board, their struck down in a hail of enemy fire. When I play a wargame I not only get to be the supreme commander but the executive producer and director too.

So as someone who has done their best to create original works, with unique, vibrant and interesting worlds therein I completely understand where individuals within the Games Workshop are coming from. Whoever they may be. And to be honest, I would go after anyone who stole my ideas because I’ve worked hard to create them. And as with all obsessions it comes with heavy compromise.

I suppose the big and extremely significant difference between me and the Games Workshop is that although they too fiercely protect their ideas they do so because there’s millions of pounds/dollars involved, share holders who want their taste of the pie and the jobs of thousands of people around the world. Not to mention the millions of people who love their games.

I’d like to think that if my games ever reached the dizzy heights I would find the water’s edge between protecting my ideas and crushing those that want to do something a bit different with the models for my game. As I say, I don’t excuse Games Workshop. If I’m honest I don’t really understand the case, them or what the hell they’re doing these days but I do understand.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Chapterhouse/Games Workshop case as were Games Workshop to lose – as I understand things – it could well shatter the grip they hold over a number of copyrights. More over companies like Chapterhouse will explode as gamers are forced more and more to look for alternatives to Games Workshop’s ever sky rocketing prices. Watch this space…