Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trion Renews Legal Assault Over Rifts

The hits keep on coming, don't they? I spent much of the weekend wondering how Palladium would respond to the news that the Michigan courts dismissed its lawsuit against Trion Worlds over the name of their new MMO, Rift: Planes of Telera. Palladium, as I'm sure you're aware, publishes the traditional tabletop RPG, Rifts. Now, all of my speculation is for nothing, as Trion has thrown the first punch of Round 2. Read on for the story, and my reactions as a Palladium Books freelancer and Rifts author.

Today, word comes down that Trion has filed a lawsuit in California to challenge the validity of Palladium's trademark for Rifts in the video game market. Trask over at LivingDice.com has done an excellent job of running down the particulars of the suit, so I won't duplicate his effort. Let it suffice to say that Trion is seeking a ruling that their title does not infringe on any of Palladium's properties, plus seeks to strip Palladium of its trademark.

While Trion's first legal actions in defense of its use of "Rift" in a video game title were very broad, this action cuts the myriad of points, accusations, and suggestions by Trion to a single pinpoint. Trion appears to be going after the trademark with ferocity.

So, with the battle rejoined, where does this put Palladium? I see a few potential issues.

  • Palladium announced at the outset of these legal troubles they they are in talks with developers of MMO games to finally bring Rifts to video gamers, everywhere. How will these developers view the fact that Palladium's right to use the "Rifts" title in video games is now under fire? It can't be a good thing.
  • Palladium also recently announced that they are pursuing Rifts applications for Facebook and the iPhone and other mobile devices. The same question is raised. Will developers still have an interest?
  • In general, this new lawsuit certainly puts Palladium even further on the defensive. The powers at the company must now collect their resources and prepare for battle, if not a siege. Trion has the resources to bury Palladium if they can stretch things out long enough.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, Palladium seemingly now must fight. Before, one can assume that there was an option to simply not refile the lawsuit and pour resources into trying to support the Rifts video game trademark, but now that is not an option. As a result of this suit, a judge will rule on whether or not Palladium owns the Rifts video game trademark.
  • While drawn into this legal fight, what is going on at the Palladium offices? In his most recent press release, company president Kevin Siembieda indicates that nothing has been done. It has definitely hurt productivity, and that needs to turn around if Palladium is going to make it through this. No new product means insufficient income to make this stand.

My best thoughts and wishes are with Palladium through this. It's a long road ahead, to be sure.


Jack Philpott said...

This officially sucks. The best hope is that the judge throws this one out on the same grounds as the last judge threw out Palladium's suit on that "Rift(s)" is too generic of a term.

Ludicrous bullshit all around.

Steve Dubya said...

Uh, the previous suit was dismissed for not being the right jurisdiction (MI); it had nothing to do with the actual merits of any other arguments.

The Trion lawyers seem to be angling to make sure that isn't the case in the opening bits of what they filed.

Daedalus said...

Looks like Karma has come back to bite Kevin on his ass. He finally messed with the wrong people.

Serves him right

Johnn Four said...

Jason, do you think Palladium should cut bait and give up the legal battles? Rifts has some currency with pen and paper gamers, but an awesome quality MMO will attract a customer base under a new name as well. New brands are launched profitably every year. I wonder how much value the Rifts name actually has?

Jason Richards said...

Tough to say, Johnn, as I don't have all of the information. In his latest Murmur, Kevin sounded very upbeat, so maybe they have it licked. I think that at this juncture it's only reasonable for Palladium to weigh ALL of its options, and that would include stopping the fight, as the point surely exists where fighting it will do more harm than good; where that line is, I have no way to know. I'm certain that Palladium is going to keep on swinging, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how the previous Rifts game (Promise of Power on the ill-fated N-Gage) will affect this. To my non-legal mind, that should establish a precedence of Palladium's right to "Rift(s)" in the video game market.

- Mack the Mod (from PB's forums)

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