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.
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.