By Alec Meer on October 7th, 2010 at 8:07 pm.
Oh Tim Langdell the nasty trademark troll,
On wrecking businesses you were on a roll.
Now your case against EA’s been thrown out,
And you must be wearing a great big pout.
Everybody! It’s the ‘Tim Langdell finally got his litigous little bottom kicked’ song! Sing it together!
In fact, having his ridiculous attempt to block EA’s further use of the word ‘edge’ in game names denied is the least of the Edge Games bully’s problems… Those ‘edge’ trademarks he’s abused for so long? Looks like he’s going to lose ‘em.
Recap: Tim Langdell owns a company called Edge Games, which he claims has made a bunch of games and other media involving the word ‘edge.’ As such, he somehow managed to gain a trademark for this common-language term in the US, and has attempted to force a name change from or money out of any game company that uses it to title their products. It’s caused a lot of grief to a lot of people, but sickeningly, Langdell appeared to have the law on his side. If you’re not aware of any of this, Simon Parkin’s investigation for Eurogamer is comfortably the world’s finest documentation of the Langdell saga.
Until now. While Langdell has traditionally bullied smaller developers who might struggle to fund long and messy court cases so instead settle in one way or another, earlier this year he finally went after EA for Mirror’s Edge. Because, of course, ‘Mirror’s Edge’ would immediately make everyone think it must be a title from a company they’ve never heard of called Edge Games.
EA, being enormous, didn’t roll over, pay the guy any money or change their game to Mirror’s Precarious Bit On The End. Instead they pushed back, and they pushed back in a way that made even people who hate EA struggle not to applaud. They filed a counter-claim that stated Langdell had deliberately deceived the US patent office. And then everything, especially Langdell, went quiet.
A couple of days ago, word came down that a judge had denied Langdell’s injunction against Mirror’s Edge. Hooray for EA: you can keep on making parkour games. Well, provisionally. The preliminary injunction being denied doesn’t stop Langdell from trying to bring action against EA, but it is essentially the judge saying “you can try, but you’ve got no chance, matey.” So most likely he won’t take it further, unless he’s decided to risk whatever money he’s somehow got left on a fool’s errand.
That wasn’t the half of it, though.
In his report, the judge accused Langdell of “trolling” (yes, he actually said trolling), of not having released products that supported his claim on the word and – this is the best bit – falsified a whole mess of evidence to gain his trademark.
For instance, this little beauty. On the right, the July 2004 cover of UK games stern-o-tome Edge. On the left, what Langdell submitted to the US patent office to prove he owned Edge magazine.
I very rarely say this. I hate the term, in fact. But… LOL.
Note the $ price, the nonsensical coverline, the lack of any explanatory coverlines about the nature of this magazine other than its claimed owner, the bad recolouring to suggest Edge Games’ logo, and the inexplicable inclusion of ‘the new Edge game PCs’ on the bottom. Which is the biggest tell of them all – Edge don’t like PC gaming!
Langdell did similar dodginess for the Edge Games boxart he submitted in his application. Here’s something from the brilliant scathing judge’s report on the denied injunction:
“For example, Dr. Langdell’s declaration asserted that Edge Games has been selling the video game Mythora (supposedly bearing the “EDGE” mark) since 2004. Curiously, while the exterior packaging submitted by Dr. Langdell to the USPTO for the Mythora video game included a website address, this website wasn’t even registered by Edge Games until October 2008 – nearly four years after the game’s purported release.”
WELL DONE TIM LANGDELL. This was, of course, a deception already uncovered by peerless Langdell-fighters Chaos Edge, but to see it turn up in a court report and handily slap Langdell down is gratifying in the extreme.
What this means is, essentially, Langdell appears to have sought his trademark on the word ‘edge’ and various derivatives under false pretences. And what that means, says Dear Judgy-poos, is that he could face criminal charges. I.e. fines, perhaps even imprisonment – but most importantly being stripped of the trademarks he has used to bring anguish to many developers.
Whether that’ll happen or not remains to be seen officially, as it requires US authorities to actively bring action about, but comments from Mobigames – whose iPhone game Edge suffered business-disrupting threats and enforced name changes from Langdell last year – suggest something is very much going ahead.
“It is not over yet,” Mobigame CEO David Papazian told Eurogamer. “Now we will continue to support EA in the battle against Tim Langdell. The next step is to have all his trademarks cancelled by the USPTO.”
Also: “We are still thinking to start a legal action against Langdell to claim a reparation for the prejudice.” Which is presumably something anyone else who suffered his legal bullying could do in the likely event that the trademarks are cancelled.
In other words: he could well be screwed. Many times over.
It is wrong to wish misfortune on another human being, so let’s not do that. Let’s simply hope that his ability to inflict misfortune on other human beings in this strange, petty and apparently illegitimate way is swiftly removed.
Update: it’s happening! It’s happened! (As tipped off by James in the comments below)
The parties having stipulated to the disposition of the claims in this action, FINAL JUDGMENT IS HEREBY ENTERED in favor of Defendant and Counterclaimant Electronic Arts Inc. (“EA”) and Counterclaimant and Counter-Counterdefendant EA Digital Illusions CE AB (“DICE”), and against Plaintiff, Counterdefendant, and Counter Counterclaimant Edge Games, Inc. and Counterdefendant The Edge Interactive Media, Inc., on all claims, counterclaims, and counter-counterclaims, with the exception of the Sixth Claim for Relief (Declaratory Relief) in the Counterclaim asserted by Counterclaimants EA and EA DICE, which is dismissed without prejudice in accordance with the parties’ stipulation.
Pursuant to Section 37 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1119, the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks and the Assistant Commissioner for Trademarks are hereby ordered to cancel U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 2,219,837; 2,251,584; 3,105,816; 3,559,342; and 3,381,826. The Clerk of the Court is further directed to certify a copy of this Final Judgment to the Commissioner of the Patent and Trademark Office.
Each party shall bear its owns costs and fees in this matter.
The second paragraphs the reveal that he’s lost his trademarks ( for ‘edge’, ‘cutting edge’, ‘edge’ again, ‘the edge’ and ‘gamer’s edge’ respectively), while the final line means he’s got to pay a bunch of money. And that’s before all the developers he went after decide to pile on.
Update update: In fact it’s a proposed judgement, not yet signed off by the judge, although he is currently reviewing it and Langdell’s lawyers look to have already agreed. But there’s still scope for more madness yet…
(Oh, here’s the full court document for the injunction-denial, by the way. It’s an entertaining read, filled with scathing comments and more visual examples of Langdell’s ridiculous doctoring techniques. That he managed to get that stuff past the patent office is pretty unsettling: you have to wonder what other people have managed to slip through. There’s also a breakdown of exactly what the injuction ruling means and what might happen next here, but free registration is required.)