I'm sure most of you have heard of this lawsuit by now, and with talk of it becoming more frequent within the Warhammer community, I felt like throwing my two cents in.
The background is thus: Other companies and individuals (Chapterhouse Studios and Jon Paulson) are producing kits bearing Games Workshop's trademarked and copyrighted iconography and terminology; GW alleges that this is causing them "irreparable injury" and wants to put them out of business and receive compensation for damages and court costs.
In the past, GW would typically issue a cease and desist order to any company or individual who produced extra bits for their gaming ranges, and that would be the end of it. This time however, they've requested a civil trial by jury (I'll go into the significance of that later) for trademark and copyright infringement.
As with the cease and desist orders, this lawsuit smells like GW trying to drive legitimate competition out of business by using the courts instead of offering a superior product for which gamers are obviously willing to pay. The very existence of Chapterhouse and Paulson Games is proof of this demand. I think the lawsuit also serves as a warning. A ritual execution, sort of a head on a pike outside the Nottingham office of GW as a warning to any who would use their intellectual property without their permission.
Also worth bearing in mind is that there are only a small handful of products that directly copy anything either GW or Forge World produces, the remaining products neither GW or FW makes, which makes GW's claim that the defendants' operations on the whole are infringing on GW's (c)'d and TM'd works almost total bogus, and any "injury" sustained by CH and Paulson doing business certainly isn't "irreparable."
Other companies have similar hangers-on. Apple and Nintendo being two of them. Third parties often use copyrighted works of the aforementioned companies to produce products like "IPod case" and "Wii controller grip." Yet, lawsuits aren't brought against these companies. I think that Apple, Nintendo, and a slew of other companies have realized the value third party accessories have to building interest in these companys' products.
If Paulson and CH are doing anything, it's filling a niche demand, and making money that GW doesn't want to make. If GW wanted to make this money, they could very easily produce kits of far superior quality through FW and trample their competition. Making resin casts isn't that difficult, I do it myself using the same procedure FW does. Resin casting is very, very labor intensive, but the most difficult process is preparing the original sculpt itself. After that, it's just a matter of creating the molds and getting the finished casts to market. FW has recently outsourced a lot of its labor to China, and the lead time on many products has been cut in half. If filling consumer demand instead of maintaining a tidy monopoly was truly their concern, FW could very easily outsource all of the labor to China, turning their office in the UK solely over to the creative process.
In short, GW should be using the small garage businesses as a divining rod to gauge demand within the Warhammer community and offer a superior product. This would serve to secure their intellectual property, eliminate competition, make money, and fill the voracious hunger us gamers have for quality kits, making us happy and willing to spend more money on GW products.
One of the issues brought up by GW is the case of CH implying that they were a part of GW, or at least working for them. CH uses GW trademarked terms in their product descriptions quite frequently, and as far as I noticed, they didn't have a happy little disclaimer indicating that they have no affiliation with GW. Basically, they were asking for it, and it serves as an interesting case of someone not covering their ass. Again, I feel that there's no need to sue them, a simple demand that they stop using copyrighted and trademarked terminology and assert their independence from GW should have sufficed.
What line of logic GW used when dragging Jon Paulson into this is beyond me. Paulson designed CH's Tau Empire super-heavy walker for them, and therefore, he's getting dragged into this. Does that mean that if I choke someone to death with a Space Marine, is Jes Goodwin going to jail with me? Certainly not, but as I've opined previously, this is probably just an excuse to put Paulson out of business.
There are some other peculiarities in the case that my good friend pointed out to me. One of which is the fact that GW has demanded a trial by jury. This may not seem like a big deal, and it is a constitutional right after all, but in this case it's nothing short of a colossal dick move. Trials by jury increase the price tag of the trial by about 33%, and considering that GW is demanding reimbursement for court costs from the defendants who are just some guys working out of their garages, the jury demand is almost definitely a scare tactic to get CH and Paulson to settle, rather than try to fight it in court.
Copyright and trademark cases are pretty interesting. Typically, unless you've made an exact copy and sold it for profit, you're not liable for damages. Even a slight modification can get you off the hook. However, like most civil cases in the US, the outcome of this case is going to depend largely on how many lawyers at what price each side can throw into the fight (if it even goes to court).
To conclude, I feel that GW is taking advantage of its ability (and the defendants' inability) to pay the costs to judiciate competition out of business, rather than competing with them honestly for consumer dollars. My prediction is that this will be settled out of court and CH and Paulson will fold.
Hopefully, that isn't the case.