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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Palladium Fires Back At Trion Over Rifts Trademark


News, news, and more news out of the battle over the rights to the name "Rifts" in the video game world. Trask at livingdice.com continues to rule over this story, posting legal goodness and keeping everyone up to date, so I'll refer you to him for the broad stroke. He presents it far better than I would, and I'd hate to step on his toes and steal his material. Well, maybe I wouldn't hate it, but I'm still not going to do it.

There actually isn't that much new to report, as Palladium basically just responded to Trion's lawsuit over Palladium's Rifts trademark. There are a few things worthy of mention, however, so I'll dive into those below the fold. If you feel like refreshing yourself on the ins and outs of this case as it has developed, and get my thoughts as a Rifts author and Palladium freelancer, you may view all such posts here.

Read on for more.



Feeling better about this

So, having read Palladium's rebuttal to Trion's lawsuit, I came away with one overwhelming feeling, which is "relief." There were a number of items in Palladium's last round of filings that came off to me as clumsy, silly, or just poorly constructed. I'm happy to report that this document appears to be much, much better than the previous one. The whole thing is just far more coherent and logical in its presentation, and (almost) never veers off into the ridiculous.

For example, Palladium's original documentation cited Internet message board conversations as evidence that the name of Trion's game, "Rift: Planes of Telera," caused confusion with Palladium's traditional tabletop game, the "Rifts RPG." However, in what I could only describe as an embarrassing twist, in Trion's rebuttal they pointed out that Palladium had used these quotations only from its own website, and even then had lifted portions of the quotes out of their original context, and when viewed as a whole they actually supported Trion's position. Ouch.

Fortunately, this specific error was rectified in the new document, and its like was (mostly) avoided. All in all, as a layman dummy, it looks and reads much, much better to me. Hurray for do-overs!

The slam dunk

If there's a slam dunk in the various issues of contention between Palladium and Trion, it has to be the website address for Trion's game, which is riftgame.com. Trion goes to great lengths to describe the various ways that its game is easily differentiated from Palladium's RPG, but the website address that they use doesn't do that at all, and in fact can very easily be shown to cause some level of confusion.

In the new documentation, this issue is moved right up front and is spelled out far more explicitly than in the previous go-around. I'm not saying that the court will rule in Palladium's favor on this, but to me it seems like the clearest case for user confusion that Palladium can make, and it's a good one.

Some slight silliness

As I said, I found Palladium's remarks this time around to be highly reasonable and well presented. However, there was one issue that I found compromised some of that. As anyone that has been following the case must be aware, the legal battle is really all about the use of "Rift" as the title for Trion's game. When describing the case for why fans and consumers may be confused by the Trion "Rift" versus the Palladium "Rifts," the document makes the following statement, in paragraph 38 if you're following along:

It is also clear that the public will not readily distinguish between Trion’s “RIFT” mark and Palladium’s RIFTS® mark. The Murphy column quoted above quickly moves, in discussing the new game, from use of “Rift” to the use of “Rifts” on a regular basis. A few examples, among many, include:
  • “The Rifts are causing creatures and life from other worlds to seep into and threaten Telara.
  • “There are two factions of belief concerning the Rifts of Telara.”
  • “[T]he Defiants want nothing more than to harness the Rifts’ power.”

Let me start by saying that I understand Palladium's point, here. The suggestion is that when utilizing a possessive or plural of the proper noun, Rift, then suddenly that word is indistinguishable from the title of Palladium's property. That is certainly valid. However, to me this comes across as Palladium suggesting that Trion can not use the word "Rifts" when describing the plural form of tears in space and time. Clearly that is not the case, as Palladium in no way owns the word "rift" in that description.

The good news is that this is the only place in the document that gave me pause. Everything else was great. Bravo.

Bottom line

While I do feel much better about this version of the explanation of Palladium's case, one fact remains: Trion is still charging that Palladium's Rifts trademark in video games is illegitimate. If they can make their case that 1) Palladium fraudulently received the trademark based on software that was not a video game to begin with (the Rifts Game Master Companion), or 2) that the license has since fallen out of use and is therefore forfeit, then nothing else is likely to matter. While Palladium makes great arguments, the core component of Trion's suit against Palladium is still very much in play.

So, I expect that we'll see further rebuttal from Trion in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, what do you think about all this? Fire away.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think someone who is wealthy beyond belief needs to go buy Trion lock stock and barrel and sell it to Kevin for $1.00. That should shut those jerks up for good.

Anonymous said...

Someone should buy out Kevin and his Ip and give it to someone who can actually come out with a worthy rpg.

Jason Richards said...

@Anonymi: I don't think either of those things is likely to happen. :)

Anonymous said...

Section 27 of the Counterclaim -why are Palladium still pushing the "we federally registered Rifts: Promise of Power" line when they appear as fools as the trademark only says "Promise of Power".

SJE

Jason Richards said...

I didn't revisit the topic of the "Promise of Power" mark, but I noticed that as well, SJE. It could very well be that since Promise of Power was the secondary title to the game, that including "Rifts" was not necessary. However, if I understand everything correctly, then if the original Rifts video game trademark is found to be invalid, then the Promise of Power trademark will be of no help in establishing the continued use of said Rifts trademark.

I don't know that anybody here is foolish. I'm no lawyer, and am in fact a dummy who is not to be trusted. I can only assume that since Palladium continues to raise the issue, that the legal team feels that it's a strong point.

Novastar said...

It strengthens their argument, if Promise Of Power was "piggy-backed" on the existing "RIFTS" electronic trademark. It shows that Palladium is trying to make use of the Trademark, rather than sitting on it.

I'm more interested in the veiled threat of Item #32; that's a whole different ballgame, going after content rather than just "Brand recognition" from the registered Trademark...

mithril said...

if you look at the title of the actual game: http://www.amazon.com/Rifts-Promise-Power-N-Gage/dp/B000EI41DU

you see that the full title is "RIFTS (R): Promise of Power (R)

both parts of the name, 'RIFTS' and 'promise of power', are trademarked seperately. since RIFTS was trademarked (presumably under the second, revised trademark*), and it is on an actual product that was developed, and SOLD, it would be hard for a court to declare the trademark invalid.

*Trion is argueing the trademark is invalid based on the original trademark registration, which has lapsed. but palladium has a second registration of the same trademark, with much more precise language which is currently still active....something i hope palladium points out to the courts..having an older trademark lapse while re-registering it with better language is a fairly normal activity, AFAIK. lets companies keep their trademarks up-to-date with the times. after all, 30 years ago you didn't really have many trademarks that covered computer programs at all...which legally, meant that anyone could have infringed on them so long as they made a computer game from it.

Jason Richards said...

A couple of points, as I think that mithril might have missed the larger issue.

You are correct, mithril, that there are separate marks for Rifts and Promise of Power. Nobody is denying that in the court documents, but Trion points out that Rifts is not included specifically within the Promise of Power mark. I'll explain why that's important in a moment.

Trion is not claiming that the Rifts video game trademark is invalid because it was abandoned in 2000. There is, indeed, a "Live" trademark that was established after the original, and Trion is aware of that. Trion claims that the current, Live trademark is invalid for two reasons. I'm going to focus right now on what I perceive to be the dangerous one.

Palladium's "Live" trademark for Rifts video games, which you can view at

http://goo.gl/tyDQ

was activated in 1997. What game existed in 1997 that was the basis for this trademark? There was none, only the Rifts Game Master Companion, which I think we can all agree is NOT a game. You can't apply for a trademark and just sit on it, there has to be a product. So, Trion claims that the Rifts video game trademark was obtained fraudulently, and is therefore invalid.

Now, back to Promise of Power. If the Rifts video game trademark is invalid because it was obtained fraudulently, then what about the game that DID get made? Well, the Rifts part of that trademark is thrown out, leaving only the "Promise of Power" trademark, which bears no mention of Rifts, at all.

I'm not saying this is how it actually is, or how it will go down. It's just how I read what Trion is trying to say.

Robert G. Male said...

I still think that if there is a Rifts RPG and Bruckheimer comes out with a movie with Rifts in the title then Trion are going to totally look like money-grubbing idiots even if they gain ownership of a video game trademark for Rifts. It'd be like me making Disney Coffee Makers just because Walt Disney Co. doesn't make them (for all I know).

Anonymous said...

@Robert G. Male

One really can't take Trion's actions as being money-grubby as you put it. Rifts isn't really that known outside the table top RPG circle and really it is without a better word died for the most part. Rifts wasn't used in the title of Trion's MMORPG to profit off Palladium Books' product as really there isn't anything there to profit off of at all currently.

Mr. Bob said...

Wow. I don't know about other people, so I'm just going to tell you my story on how I got to this thread.

I was reading a flame thread in World of Warcraft, just musing, and I thought "Gods how I would like there to be a RIFTS Online game, the Megaverse is huge." Not two second later I read someone saying "looking forward to such and such games, one of those games being Rift"

I Gasped with joy. No way, did Palladium Games FINALLY make an online game? No way!!!! I did a quick search and WHAM Rift online pops up. I went into the website and looked for the Palladium Logo like a lost lamb looking for its shepherd, and thought it was VERY odd I didn't see it anywhere. I mean, darn, the entire website looked like what I would expect from a RIFTS game, tentacled monster coming out of a RIFT, (Splugorth look alike in my book) Huh, no logo. So I went to Palladium to see if they were advertising the game, nothing there. WTF? Did Palladium sale the rights? A little more digging and here I am reading about the lawsuit, which, is dead on because:
1. I was confused about the product, I swear I thought it was a Palladium Game.
2. Just because not a lot of people love it, like I do, doesn't mean its not someone else's idea.
3. Sales don't matter, I know a lot of people who, sadly, have pirated entire catalog fulls of Rifts. Personally I have 2 shelfs of RIFTS books and lovingly brush my fingers through the crumbling yellowed pages whenever my responsibilities allow. Aaaah, Rifts, what a world full of incredible potential!!!
So everything that Palladium stated happened to me. (shrug) Will it happen to someone else? Dunno, I just know it DID happen.

Anonymous said...

Trion is really just picking a fight with a company just getting out of debt. I'm in game design courses and trion is actually Violating an unspoken rule among game companies. Do not attack another persons market with their product. Simply put don't try to sell an MMO of a RIFT game when RIFTS RPG has been in works for one for a while. They had to put it off due to financial issues. So even if Trion wins no company is going to work with them. Not to mention having nothing under their belt. They violated another unspoken rule being game companies don't beat a dead horse. Palladium just was revived because of that embezzling problem its only right they should have time to recover. Does it not seem odd Trion literally released this game right after Palladium recovered. I bet you its got the same idiot who stole from them. Violating unspoken rules in any business is likely to gain you many enemies. One company which tends to get bent out of shape over idiots who break them is the oldest Video game company in history the one thats 200 years old. Microsoft doesn't like people like that either nor sony. Attacking ones market must be done fair in competition in a "war" not an Assassination. Trion is just trying to bankrupt Palladium. They pretty much better hope they lose or their business won't ever port to a system.

These rules may not apply to court but people should be aware no matter how ruthless any business is they tend to follow unspoken rules those who don't are attacked indiscriminately. So Trion is basically screwing themselves with this publicity stunt which is all this is.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but if palladium would have gotten there heads out of there buts and created a rpg this wouldn't be a issue. (fans have been wanting a decent rifts rpg and movie I've always thought if you made a game as dynamic as the paper game you would put Blizzard(WOW) in the grave and make lots more money hell team up with them they do a good job and would be crazy to turn rifts down. Listen to your customers)not likely as ive requested databases multipul times to make a charachter gen for them for free with no response. Make A Movie don't let this happen there too(hell I'll write it).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps somebody should just instead by the Palladium Ip (somebody with access to Illustrator 1.0 and an Apple IIe maybe?) to actually lay his material out in readable usable form.

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