Bethesda has reportedly sent a letter (photo) to Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson and his studio Mojang in regards to using the term "Scrolls" as their next game title. According to the Skyrim developer, the title infringes upon its own "The Elder Scrolls" trademark and could possibly stir up some confusion when the fifth Elder Scrolls installment launches in November.
"Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started," Persson said in his blog on Friday.
He explains that around six months ago, Mojang's lawyers insisted that the studio register "Minecraft" as a trademark. At the time, they also applied for "Scrolls," the next PC game on the release schedule. At the time, they didn't see any titles that used that specific term, and they even questioned if it was possible to trademark individual words like "Scrolls," but filed anyway just in case.
"A while later, out of the blue, we got contacted by Bethesda’s lawyers," he said. "They wanted to know more about the 'Scrolls' trademark we were applying for, and claimed it conflicted with their existing trademark 'The Elder Scrolls.' I agree that the word 'Scrolls' is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image."
"The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary," he went on to say. "We looked things up and realized they didn’t have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games. We suggested a compromise where we’d agree to never put any words in front of 'Scrolls,' and instead call sequels and other things something along the lines of 'Scrolls - The Banana Expansion.' I’m not sure if they ever got back to us with a reply to this."
But now the Minecraft developer is holding a 15-page letter from Bethesda's lawyers. "I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark," he said. "I sincerely hope Bethesda isn’t pulling a Tim Langdell."
He also added that he "still <3 Bethesda," via his Twitter account. "This is hopefully just lawyers being lawyers."
Notch and his studio may be forced to find another name. Back in November 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sent Facebook a Notice of Allowance, permitting the social network to trademark "Face" under certain conditions: that it must pay the issue fee within three months, file a sworn "Statement of Use" that says it intends to use the trademark on products, and then use the trademark on its own in commerce before it can legally claim the word.
"A first request for extension of time to file a Statement of Use has been granted," reads the trademark's current status.
So far Bethesda has not provided a statement, as the studio is currently sporting Skyrim and other titles at QuakeCon 2011 taking place in Texas. Expect some kind of response shortly.