It's time to light up the Popehat Signal and seek legal help for an author wrongfully threatened by a large company.
I first wrote about this situation in December. MCA Hogarth is a science fiction writer; she wrote a book called "Spots the Space Marine." Venerable gaming titan Games Workshop is claiming that it has a trademark in the term "Space Marine" that extends not just to games (like its well-known Warhammer 40,000) but to any use of "Space Marine" in science fiction. Never mind that the term has been in wide use in science fiction for many decades.
Hogarth, a self-published author, is finding Amazon.com unsympathetic to her arguments about Games Workshop's thuggish and meretricious claims, and is finding the cost of hiring trademark counsel an insurmountable barrier. (Edit: here's a mirror if her site gets slammed.) That's exactly the effect that 800-pound-gorillas like Games Workshop hope for when they make spurious claims — not that they'd win a protracted legal battle, but that their opponents lack the funds to fight, and that vendors like Amazon will defer to them.
As I have said before, I am always heartened by the response to the Popehat Signal. It's rare that it doesn't produce suitable pro bono counsel. So: this time, I'm hoping there is a trademark attorney out there — maybe a geeky one with the heart of a gamer, like me — willing to help Hogarth pro bono. Even advice and negotiation would be helpful, I bet. I would do whatever I can to coordinate support and backup for such a lawyer. As always, offers of help from lawyers in other fields, paralegals, tech experts, and other professionals is welcomed and helpful.
But that's not all.
I know you are out there, gamers and science fiction readers. Even if you're not an attorney, you can help. You can help by sending an email (edit: in the comments, Patrick offers the email to use) to Games Workshop telling them you won't buy their products while they engage in meritless trademark bullying. (Edit: or communicate with them by their Twitter account, https://twitter.com/VoxCaster.) You can help by spreading this story — and getting others involved — on every gaming and science fiction blog and board and forum out there. Inflict upon Games Workshop the consequences of their actions.
As always, thanks.
(And thanks to the dozens of people who emailed or tweeted me about this.)