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Minecraft studio ambushed by Bethesda's lawyers over 'Scrolls'

Minecraft creator Markus 'Notch' Persson is facing legal action from Bethesda over his Mojang Studios's use of the title 'Scrolls' for its next game. Earlier today, the indie studio co-founder announced on Twitter that he received a legalese manifesto from Bethesda's lawyers claiming that the title of Mojang's next game infringes on its Elder Scrolls trademark, and that the similarity may create confusion upon Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's release.

Shortly after announcing his legal troubles, Persson posted, “I still <3 Bethesda. This is hopefully just lawyers being lawyers.” He followed up by posting proof of “lawyers being lawyers” with a snapshot of the 15-page document written in Swedish. Kotaku translated the opening of the statement to read:

"The sign Scrolls exhibit significant visual, aural and conceptual similarities with my principal's trademark The Elder Scrolls," Bethesda's lawyers said, according to a Google Translation of the letter, written in Swedish and Tweeted by Persson today. "These similarities are reinforced by the fact that in the entertainment industry, including the computer games industry it is common practice for goods and services with a common commercial origin to be marketed as characterized by are constructed from a common brand elements. For example, the company Nintendo's world famous Mario series with game titles like Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros., or company Blizzard's Warcraft series of games titles such as Warcraft Orcs and Humans and the World of Warcraft.... there is a clear risk to the average consumer to get the idea that goods and/or services provided under the sign Scroll and The Elder Scrolls from the same commercial origin or at least from economically-linked undertakings. Against this background, it is our opinion that Mojang's use of the sign Scrolls constitutes an infringement of my principal."

Most recently, Notch took to his blog to post his thoughts on the lawsuit. In his latest post, he re-affirms his affinity for Bethesda, and details earlier talks with the studio in which it agreed to let Mojang continue with its name provided no words were added to the beginning of the title. Now, however, that early compromise seems to have been forgotten as Notch reports the AAA developer has already paid the legal fees required to pursue the suit, and is ready to take Mojang to court.

Mojang's Scrolls is a game being overseen by Persson's partner, Jakob Porser, and is reported to be card-based board game hybrid. That's a far cry from the epic open-world fantasy Bethesda has cooking. And really, if consumers don't know enough to do an ounce of research or read the back of the box, perhaps spending money on the wrong 'Scrolls' will be lesson well learned.

We've contacted Bethesda for their take on the suit, and will update as per their comments when and if we hear back.

Aug 5, 2011

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29 comments

  • jlg9nk - August 6, 2011 5:04 p.m.

    Oh I forgot to add, great job reporting this Games Radar, and please keep us updated. =)
  • jlg9nk - August 6, 2011 5:01 p.m.

    Even if it is just Bethseda's lawyers, Bethseda has everything to do with this. The lawyers are simply protecting what they perceive as their client's interest, and it would be up to Bethseda to call this off. If Bethseda continues to bully Mojang Studios around, I definitely won't be buying any more of their games. This is completely absurd, I mean geesh, Blizzard didn't sue over "Minecraft", and no gamer in their right mind would ever confuse "Scrolls" with "Skyrim". If Scrolls was attempting to rip off content or called itself "Elder Scrolls" then that might be different, but this is just a case of corporate greed, in my opinion. Any sales lost by Skyrim because of this, would be absolutely minimal, perpetrated by unwitting grandmothers...and in that regard, Skyrim should be more worried about Wii Sports than anything else.
  • IceSickle - August 6, 2011 12:42 p.m.

    You know what, f**k Bethesda. First they pick a fight with Interplay over the Fallout MMO (virtually ruining any chance of them ever actually making it), and now this. Since when can companies copyright simple, unoriginal, one syllable words? Whats next, them suing over the use of 'The' in a title, because it might somehow cause some illiterate moron some confusion?
  • ZigzMagoo - August 6, 2011 7:46 a.m.

    LOLZ at all the morons who don't know shit about the legal process, and make assumptions about lawyers. 1. Lawyers work for companies, not themselves. They do nothing without the approval of the company. 2. The lawyers work for ZeniMax Media, not Bethesda, the game developer. 3. If they do not protect their franchise (The Elder Scrolls) even from minor issues like the name "Scrolls" then people can continually edge their way into the franchise. Plus "Scrolls" is a an infringement of the name. 4. As "Scrolls" has not been released, therefore not earning any money the company cannot claim damages in monetary terms. They can simply ask for a name change. And this is coming from someone who's top played games are Red Dead, Oblivion, and Minecraft. I'm not a fanboy, just simply not a moron. @K405 These are lawyers, people have gone through 7 years of intensive study, graduating at the top of their class. They are not idiots who sit in their parents basement, attempting to sound witty but in the end sounding ignorant.
  • K405 - August 6, 2011 5:01 a.m.

    See what happened is their lawyers heard Minecraft has sold over 1mil copies before even being released. And thinking that it's $50 a copy like every other PC game they automatically assume that means Mojang is worth millions and worth suing. In reality, they have no case and are hoping to settle out of court and get a check, like most lawyers they care nothing for the laws and only want money. It'd be nice if frivolous lawsuits like this would result in disbarring of the lawyers responsible. And not just if they do it to death like Jack Thompson did, I mean a 3 strikes you're career is over policy on it.
  • NuclearXmas - August 6, 2011 3:16 a.m.

    I don't know if preventing the confusion between two different games and franchises is worth the harm this is going to do to their reputation.
  • Bloodstorm - August 6, 2011 3:14 a.m.

    @JamesRadar, Notch isn't working on scrolls, his partner is. Notch is dedicated to Minecraft, while another small team works on Scrolls.
  • JamesRadar - August 6, 2011 2:17 a.m.

    shouldn't he finish minecraft before he starts scrolls
  • BazyLastard - August 6, 2011 1:26 a.m.

    Plus "Warcraft" isn't a very common word outside of gaming, whereas generic "scrolls" very much is. "Mario" is iconic, "scrolls", not. Or let me put it this way. If you say to any gamer "I like Mario", they will immediately think of Nintendo. If you say to them, "I like Scrolls", will they think, "Bethesda"? No, they will probably just think your a weirdo. Until you add, "*Elder* Scrolls. You know, like Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim." Again, I'm just not seeing a valid argument here Bethesda.
  • BazyLastard - August 6, 2011 1:12 a.m.

    If I were him, I'd take my chances in court. I don't think Bethesda can win this case. Especially if he has any evidence of the initial compromise mentioned. Even without it, I'm just not buying Bethesda's argument here. Very, very subjective if you ask me.
  • idlemindkiller - August 6, 2011 12:55 a.m.

    @GayforGilbert---True, but Zenimax was formed long after Bethesda, basically by Bethesda. They(Bethesda)have a say in everything. Don't be naive and think they don't run the show when it comes to their products.
  • soulreapermarco - August 6, 2011 12:39 a.m.

    ..........Bethesda just go back to stopping the Fallout MMO. Seriously.
  • MidianGTX - August 6, 2011 12:34 a.m.

    From a legal point of view, almost everyone has the right to sue.
  • ZigzMagoo - August 6, 2011 12:07 a.m.

    From a legal point of view, they do have a right to sue. However, as it is Bethesda, not Activision, I doubt that they will actually ask for money, just a name change. And @Dman3981, they have a point. games should be priced as how much content they provide. Or hours of gameplay/
  • therawski - August 5, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    Why wouldn't you want to be confused with Minecraft? Seriously this is what gets in the way of innovation, bitching over words, worse than boys with toys. Looks like no one can come up with better ways to make money.
  • GayforGilbert - August 5, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    It's actually Zenimax's lawyers. Bethesda have nothing to do with this.
  • SideOfBeef - August 5, 2011 11:20 p.m.

    At some point, I think somebody will have to draw the line on these name infringement cases. We're running out of names (Except for Square Enix, but then I like real words)
  • Dman3981 - August 5, 2011 11:18 p.m.

    Uh oh, looks like Bethesda are taking steps to becoming hated. First being cocky and saying games should be $30 except theirs and now suing smaller companies for stupid reasons.
  • lilspooky - August 5, 2011 11:14 p.m.

    Elder Scrolls != Scrolls
  • WTeen8 - August 5, 2011 10:37 p.m.

    When referring to Skyrim, most people say either Skyrim, or Elder Scrolls 5. Not just scrolls. This wouldn't cause any confusion. Also the word Skyrim is larger than the words "Elder Scrolls V". So really, these lawyers are morons. Also I'm going out on a limb saying that a Mojang game would most likely be download only, even if it's a card game, (like those Pokemon TCG Gameboy games, or Magic Online). Skyrim is both. so STFU lawyers.

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