The Edge of Reason? • Page 2

The Tim Langdell story.

Papazian emailed Langdell directly, hoping to work through the issue amicably. On the 22nd April he wrote: "We chose the name Edge because it reflects the game's style: the cube you navigate through levels is always hanging on the edge. I did not know about your company or your games before. Please believe me that we did not intend to pass our game off as one of yours in any way."

Later that same day, Langdell responded, first assuring Papazian of his support of independent developers, before stating, forcefully, the need for financial resolution. "I am a strong supporter of innovation in games," he wrote. "It is not our intention to do anything other than encourage originality in games and to encourage new game makers. But the problem is that using the trademark 'EDGE' for a game is a direct infringement of our international rights. We have spent a lot of time (and a large amount of money) stopping everyone who tries to use the mark EDGE [for a] game. You wouldn't think of using 'Activision' as the name of a game would you? Even though there has never been a game called Activision. Or 'Electronic Arts' or 'Nintendo'? No, all these names are so closely associated with the name of the company, you would not be permitted to use them for a game without the express permission of the trademark owner... It is the same with EDGE."

3

Of course, the key difference between made-up words such as Activison and Nintendo is that 'edge' is a word with common meaning and in wide usage. But more worrying than this was Langdell's subsequent accusation, that Mobigame's Edge was, in fact, a direct copy of one of the publisher's earliest games.

"As to how original...your game is," Langdell wrote. "I have to differ with you. I think it is a nice game, well programmed, but it plays almost the same as many of our early games for which we are famous such as 'BOBBY BEARING'. Whereas in Bobby Bearing you play a ball rather than a cube, much of the game is rolling around looking for switches that move blocks so that you can get to the next section, or looking for objects you must roll over to get points... Indeed, we have been flooded with communications from people who think your game is made by us because we are so famous for our 1980s games which look almost exactly the same as your[s]."

Whether or not The Edge had been "flooded with communications" from concerned consumers, the accusation was a serious one, opening the way for Langdell to seek compensation for more than just a trademark infringement. He offered Papazian two ways out: "One: change the name of your game to something that does not contain the word EDGE in it within the next 7 calendar days. Two: License the right to use the trademark 'EDGE' from us."

But what appeared to be a straightforward offer turned out to be a more complex settlement as Langdell continued: "If you decide to take option 1, then we would need payment for your use of the trademark to the day you change the name. We propose 25 per cent of the revenues you have received from the game to the day you stop using our mark. If you decide to take option 2, then [you would need to add] a subtitle such as "EDGE: An Homage to Bobby Bearing" and to add our company name (EDGE Games Inc) immediately below yours in the opening screen."

The choice for Papazian was an impossible one: change the name of the game significantly, lose the brand recognition that name had accrued and pay The Edge a quarter of all past revenues. Or, alternatively, change the name a little, imply the game was a homage to something it was not and pay The Edge 10 per cent of all past and future revenues.

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Understandably, Papazian didn't respond immediately. He needed time to weigh these options, to seek legal counsel, to find out whether this nightmare was in fact an immovable reality. 24 hours later, having had no response from Papazian, Langdell piled on the pressure: "We had hoped to see your reply by this time today," he wrote. "Will we be receiving it? Or will we be filing the court actions in the US and UK? Please advise."

Over the next few days, discussions between the two men became more fraught. Papazian was fighting a battle on two fronts, firstly defending the use of the word Edge in his game, and secondly deflecting accusations of plagiarism. Langdell rebutted every email, often replying in all caps and underscore: "STOP USING OUR TRADEMARK TODAY or ENTERING (sic) INTO A SETTLEMENT TODAY," and "YOU ONLY HAVE UNTIL THE END OF TODAY TO EITHER TAKE THE GAME DOWN FROM iTUNES ENTIRELY or CHANGE ITS NAME".

Papazian claims that Langdell always emailed on a Friday afternoon, setting an ultimatum for the Monday so that Mobigame could take no legal counsel over the weekend before responding. While that may have just been coincidence, the pressure was too much. Papazian removed Edge from the iTunes store. "We had to take a rest to think," he told me. "Langdell was threatening me personally with legal action, saying it could cost me millions of dollars. I had to find some space to think."

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About the author

Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin

Contributor

Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.

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