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Notch: is Bethesda doing a Langdell?

Minecraft man responds to lawsuit threat.

Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson has gone into detail on the shock lawsuit threat from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim publisher Bethesda.

Bethesda is threatening to sue Persson over his upcoming game Scrolls, the fantasy-based interactive collectible card game.

"Just got a letter from Bethesta's [sic] lawyers," Notch wrote on Twitter last week. "They claim 'Scrolls' infringes on their trademark and everyone will confuse it with Skyrim."

Now, Notch has put his side of the story in a blog post on his website.

"They [Bethesda] wanted to know more about the 'Scrolls' trademark we were applying for, and claimed it conflicted with their existing trademark 'The Elder Scrolls'," he said of a communication some time ago.

"I agree that the word 'Scrolls' is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image.

"The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary. We looked things up and realized they didn't have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games. We suggested a compromise where we'd agree to never put any words in front of 'Scrolls', and instead call sequels and other things something along the lines of 'Scrolls - The Banana Expansion'. I’m not sure if they ever got back to us with a reply to this.

"Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started.

"I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark. I sincerely hope Bethesda isn't pulling a Tim Langdell."

Writing on the Gamer/Law website today, games lawyer Jas Purewal said Mojang, Notch's company, has three options: fight the claim, capitulate and change the game name, or agree to coexist with Bethesda (ie both use the name Scrolls, potentially in return for Mojang paying Bethesda).

"I suspect neither side would be keen on a full legal fight, both from a costs and PR perspective (does Bethesda really want to be seen to be suing Mojang, the current darling of the indie games industry?), which suggests we'll see either outcome (2) or (3) eventually," Purewal said.

"Then again, maybe one or both of them will dig their heels in and we could see a full lawsuit over this. Watch this space…"

Bethesda has so far refused to comment on the situation.