Back in 2007, Bethesda purchased the rights to the Fallout series under the condition that its original publisher, Interplay, receive a license to use the brand for an upcoming MMO (with certain stipulations). The deal didn't go entirely smoothly, but Interplay moved forward with the development of Fallout Online, and things were looking good for a while - at least, everyone seemed happy... HAPPY TO HIRE MORE LAWYERS, THAT IS!
According to Bethesda, it only gave Interplay a license to "one single asset" of Fallout - the Fallout trademark. It did not, however, give Interplay permission to use any other assets from the brand, such as settings or characters. Interplay recently filed its response, which, roughly paraphrased, says that Bethesda's assertion is completely stupid in every way, and Bethesda is stupid for thinking it, and that they must be drinking "stupid coffee" every morning because that's the only way to explain how they got so stupid (I made most of that up, but it's the general tone).
"Bethesda's interpretation requires Interplay to develop and release an MMOG under the Fallout name, but unrelated to the Fallout brand," read Interplay's response to Bethesda, which was acquired by The Vault.
"First, this is not only absurd, but is specifically prohibited by the agreement because Interplay was only granted a 'license and right to use the Licensed Marks on and in connection with its FALLOUT-branded MMOG ... and for no other purpose' ... It was not the parties' intent that Interplay create, for example, an online baseball game or poker game called 'Fallout.'"
Interplay states that requiring it to "divorce the trademark from the source of its good will, which stems from its reputation related to a particular and unique post-apocalyptic game world” would deny it the benefits of the brand all-together.
It ought to have been obvious that Interplay would interpret the contract to mean that it would be entitled to use at least some of Fallout's established universe. As Interplay states, it's absurd to think that an unrelated post-apocalyptic game which happens to be called "Fallout" qualifies as use of the brand. Apparently Bethesda thinks differently, or, potentially, is playing dumb in an effort to bury Interplay's efforts and move the project to a new developer. Its motivations aren't entirely clear to those of us who'd really like to play a Fallout MMO developed by the series' progenitor.
[Sources: Fallout Wiki Vault, Gamasutra]
Jan 10, 2011