Warhammer Online IP owner Games Workshop recently filed a lawsuit against the Curse Network for operating its WarhammerAlliance.com fansite
Games Workshop, creator and owner of the Warhammer games franchise, recently filed a lawsuit against the Curse Network for "operating and maintaining WarhammerAlliance.com," according this announcement at Curse's forums. WarhammerAlliance.com is a Warhammer Online forum and fansite created in 2005 and owned by the Curse Network. In the recent forum announcement, Curse described the lawsuit from Games Workshop as citing "trademark infringement, cybersquatting (on the domain name), dilution and unfair competition," according to the post. The announcement also provides a link to a PDF copy of the official complaint, which Curse is hosting on its servers.
The complaint was filed on March 29, 2010 in the District of Maryland Court by Games Workshop's attorneys and indeed cites trademark infringement related to Curse's use of the "Warhammer Alliance" name and domain usage. In the complaint, Games Workshop asserts its claim to the Warhammer franchise and applicable trademarks since 1984. That information will come as no surprise to most Warhammer fans, who have played GW tabletop games like Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k for years. So why the lawsuit, and what motivated it?
The following excerpts from the official complaint could be the most likely reasons why Games Workshop filed the suit:
"The domain name warhammeralliance.com and the mark WARHAMMER ALLIANCE itself literally states and implies that Defendants and their business are in an "alliance" with Plaintiff and its products and services offered under the WARHAMMER Marks."
"Defendants' website at the URL warhammeralliance.com displays HTML links featuring banner advertisements, and, upon information and belief, when Internet users click on one or more of the displayed HTML advertisements at the warhammeralliance.com website, Defendants receive payment from one or more advertisers, search engines, or affiliate programs."
The complaint includes seven Causes of Action in all, including a few allegations about Curse's acquisition and operation of the actual Web site domain. Games Workshop claims that Curse registered the site via the "Domains By Proxy" service, in which "registration is maintained anonymously to conceal the identities of Defendants," according to the complaint. It also alleges that Curse "knowingly provided incomplete or materially false contact information in maintaining the registration for the warhammeralliance.com domain name."
According to older copies of the site's "About Us" page as it was hosted in 2006 (via Archive.org), the Warhammer Alliance was "originally formed back in 2004 in omage to the orginal [sic] Warhammer Online." The page is signed by Shelby "Garthilk" Cardozo, a former community manager at Curse, Inc., according to his LinkedIn.com profile. Cardozo posted a comment in the Warhammer Alliance forum yesterday, shedding some light on his history as the site's founder. In his post, Cardozo explains that Warhammer Alliance was a re-launch of the older forum community, WarhammerOnlineForums.com, which closed shortly after Climax Entertainment stopped developing the originally-planned Warhammer Online MMO (later picked up by Mythic Entertainment). He also mentioned his communication with "Sanya Weathers of Mythic Entertainment and Erik Mogensen, the Licensing Manager for Games Workshop," which prompted Cardozo to add a "proper disclaimer at the bottom of the site."
Community reaction to the lawsuit is mixed, even among Warhammer Alliance's own forum members. In the announcement thread, some posters mention that Games Workshop has always tried to keep its intellectual properties on a conservatively-close leash, while others say it's a blatant grab for a share of the revenue that Curse has generated from the site. According to the complaint, Games Workshop demanded a trial by jury, seeking various damages and the discontinuance of Curse from using the "Warhammer Alliance" name and domain. Don't expect to learn the outcome of this issue anytime soon, though; like most civil suits, it could be quite awhile before any developments are made, whether it's a settlement, dismissal or the case actually goes to trial.