Two vast open-world games, both incredibly popular, both featuring swords and flying dragons, both releasing in November, found themselves connected in a way that’s not so fun: a legal battle. We’re of course talking about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Minecraft, games that dominated headlines in 2011 for reasons good and bad.
Minecraft is the creation of indie development house Mojang and its now-celebrity leader, Markus “Notch” Persson. Mojang’s second game, Scrolls, got them in a heated trademark battle with Bethesda Softworks’ parent company, ZeniMax Media Inc. Now, we can happily say the matter has been officially settled.
The mess began in August 2011 when Notch, known for being too vocal over Twitter, shared to the world that he received a letter from Bethesda’s lawyers which claimed that “Scrolls” infringed upon Bethesda’s trademark for The Elder Scrolls series. Understandably, fans of Minecraft mostly took to Notch’s side, voicing their opinions and the case was compared to that of David vs. Goliath.
What these fans didn’t know and what Notch didn’t share through his tweets was how encompassing Mojang’s trademark filing was, and it could potentially grant them ownership over the use of “Scrolls” across a variety of mediums, at the same time hurting ZeniMax’s future abilities to protect The Elder Scrolls brand. From a business perspective, we could argue that Bethesda was right to sue.
And in the end, ZeniMax/Bethesda won, but Mojang is happily able to use the name as part of a settlement deal announced today. ZeniMax gets the Scrolls trademark but Mojang gets to license the name for their upcoming digital card game.
Under the terms of the settlement, all ownership rights to the ‘Scrolls’ trademark will transfer to ZeniMax, and Mojang will assign to ZeniMax ownership of any pending “Scrolls’ trademark applications. ZeniMax has licensed the ‘Scrolls’ mark toMojang to be used solely in conjunction with its existing Scrolls digital card game and any add-on material it makes to that game. The terms of the settlement bar Mojang from using the Scrolls mark for any sequel to the current card game, or any other video game.
It’s not surprising and it was predictable that this would be the outcome. ZeniMax is able to protect their brand for the future but Mojang still gets to keep the name for their next game and it all makes no difference to players. Still, it would have been nice of Bethesda and Mojang sorted this out in the duel Notch proposed…
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