WAR Online: Games Workshop Sues Curse Network

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.

Comments

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I'd have hoped for better from GW
# May 10 2010 at 5:01 AM Rating: Excellent
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52 posts
What an utterly frivolous lawsuit. Unless the site is claiming to be GW itself, or could be confused with it, I can't see that GW has a leg to stand on. Frankly, whoever has put this lawsuit together at GW should be ashamed of themselves.
Seriously You don't get it?
# May 09 2010 at 7:11 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
I get the fans and am a fan myself, but really how can it be fair for fans to make profit off something that we don't own? And further more Warhammer is a name we trust, with all the corrupt and false information that you are lead to on the web, if you were the owner of Warhammer and always delivered to your fans, as a fan I would be upset to click on something that falsely advertised their inclusion and that is exactly why this makes sense. Perhaps you all are suggesting that Games Workshop just give their company to the fans which would end creation of anything from them? Wow.


Edited, May 9th 2010 9:12pm by mjlochte
Sigh, so they like screwing their fans?
# May 08 2010 at 6:35 AM Rating: Decent
4 posts
Sometimes I really question Games Workshop's sanity. Rather than sueing fansites, they should focus on their own products and licenses. Sueing fansites pretty much states "We don't care about our fans" or "We want to milk the fans dry". Maybe I am jaded, but my respect for Games Workshop keeps eroding.

Edited, May 8th 2010 8:02pm by Zyonin
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Sigh, so they like screwing their fans?
# May 10 2010 at 5:05 AM Rating: Excellent
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52 posts
GW should be working with fansites and helping to build their communities, rather than stomping all over them. I think adding the disclaimer at the bottom of the page (the one that WarhammerAlliance is not GW itself) is fair enough, but to do something like this? It's like a giant "**** you" to everyone that uses the site, with the only result likely to be that it drives customers AWAY from GW and towards their competitors.
Sigh, so they like screwing their fans?
# May 08 2010 at 7:47 AM Rating: Excellent
32 posts
It does seem strange that they would have such aggression towards what should be their biggest supporters. But who knows how the phone conversations went between GW and warhammeralliance.com. One comment taken the wrong way and it's off to the courts.
Sigh, so they like screwing their fans?
# May 08 2010 at 12:47 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
Hey guys, I'm Nattfodd, Site Manager for Warhammer Alliance. I will not discuss the merits of the lawsuit, nor my own personal feelings, but I felt I should clarify this. There was no phone call from GW, there was no email, there was no contact all.

Clause 19 and 20 in the lawsuit state they were unable to contact us, although I do not believe it is hard to do so.
Sigh, so they like screwing their fans?
# Aug 23 2010 at 1:54 PM Rating: Decent
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150 posts
you would think they could just post in the forums in their "attempts to contact", very strange.
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