Tim Langdell Loses In Future "Edge" Trial
Trademark Troll Crushed
Not a lot has been heard from trademark champion Tim Langdell in a while. The lawyer-happy supreme owner of the word "edge" was the palm-faced talk of the town in 2009 and 2010 (never better covered than by the excellent Chaos Edge), but his antics have been a little more quiet of late. This is likely to do with his not doing particularly well in his increasingly ludicrous attempts to claim ownership of a noun. And in the latest ruling, from Future Publishing's case against Edge Interactive Media Inc., Edge Games Inc, and Dr Timothy Langdell, it's observed that the nontrepreneur's evidence was "absurd", and he had even gone so far as to invent people to sign his witness statements. And so much more besides. Read on for an extensive breakdown of the judge's conclusions. It's a remarkable tale.
Future had charged Langdell and his various companies with breach of contract, breach of copyright, and passing off.
Mrs Justice Proudman, in her ruling for the High Court, explained that,
"I am satisfied that EIM and Games Inc are controlled exclusively by Dr Langdell. A "Jack Phillips" has occasionally put his name to witness statements on behalf of EIM in the past but he is not mentioned at all by Dr Langdell in his evidence and I suspect (without making any findings in this respect) that the claimant is right in saying that he does not exist and is an invention of Dr Langdell."
While Langdell has often attempted to make it look as though his various companies are made up of a number of employees, the judge has no truck with that, concluding that he's the only person involved in any of them, and is recognised as the sole defendant for all of them. Meanwhile she concludes that Future's EDGE magazine is, "plainly a substantial enterprise engendering a substantial following and substantial respect in the gaming industry," going on to recognise the distinctive nature of its logo since 1993. Not a strong starting point for our friend.
Rather brilliantly, Justice Proudman's conclusions recognise that Langdell's games development days only spanned the 1980s and 1990s, not crediting him with having developed anything since - something Langdell has gone to some extraordinary lengths to obfuscate. Games that never quite seem to exist as much as Langdell promises, and bear uncanny resemblances to other games.
It's important to note that this wasn't just petty trademark disputing from Future, either. Langdell has made some remarkable claims about EDGE magazine, including that it was "spawned from" his own company. He even claimed to be publishing a US version of the magazine, offering this extraordinary mock-up of a cover (via Chaos Edge):
The judge observes quite how similar Langdell's "EDGE" logo is to Future's, then goes on to recognise that Langdell has become "notorious" for "pursuing third parties using the name Edge for licence fees, failing which he pursues them for damages for trade mark infringement." Despite Langdell's rather ironic plea that this action from Future was "unnecessary", since he had met their demands ahead of the serving, the judge that it is all "wholly reasonable that the claimant should bring the action." Especially since Langdell's claims of having relented are characteristically distant from the truth. Justice Proudman points out that a letter from Langdell's solicitors in June 2009 read,
"The EDGE logo has been used by our clients for many years and they will not cease using it because they are entitled to use it."
Oops. And it gets even better. Justice Proudman adds,
"I am unable to find unequivocal undertakings in the correspondence, despite Dr Langdell's assertions that they were given. Further, Dr Langdell continued to contend before me that he was entitled to continue to use the EDGE logo and that he intended to do so."
Claims that because his font was Franklin Gothic, it meant it wasn't the same and should be considered "original", were swiftly batted aside. Langdell then went on to claim that Future's "Mr Pierce" (who can surely only be former Gamer ed, Matt Pierce) had given him permission to use the logo in 2005. When Pierce pointed out that no such discussion had ever taken place, Langdell did not provide any serious challenge. This too was rejected.
The good doctor seemed to take as many nonsensical approaches to defending his use of the EDGE logo as possible, also arguing that because he "copied" it on a letterhead to Future, that this was an "estoppel representation", which even the judge can't seem to be bothered to fathom. And then, despite having admitted to copying it, and claiming to have been given permission to use it, he brilliantly asserts that he also invented it in 1991! Future, it seemed, "consciously or unconsciously" copied it two years later when they launched the magazine. This was somewhat scuppered when Future produced the original designer of the logo, and Langdell had nothing useful to say to defend against that. This is also not particularly helped by the real "Edge" logo he was using in 1990, which in fact looks like this. Or this.
However, Langdell had produced some floppy discs which stored logo, as evidence that it pre-existed the magazine. He claimed that the logo had been published on a "single page catalogue" and a flysheet he used at trade shows, but when asked to show a physical copy said that there was, er, "scarcity of use" pre 1993. But those discs - he'd saved "catalogue" and flysheet onto 5.25" disc in 1991. He was home free! But wow, it was about to get brilliant.
The disc was too delicate to be shipped to the UK, said Dr Tim. Despite it already having been sent across the Atlantic twice. The court ordered him to send it over. And thus Langdell sent the disc to an expert, Mr Steggles of Disklabs, who verified that the disc was indeed from 1991, and said that in his opinion it was "genuinely created at that time." Surely Langdell was finally onto a winner? Except, well, Future's expert, Mr Dearsley of Kroll Computers, pointed something out. The content had been created by Windows 95.
Dearsley also pointed out that the content had been "deliberately backdated", and old Steggles was forced to agree that the disc, in fact, could not be from 1991.
But oopsie! Langdell said the disc had been sent in error! This one was a copy he'd created in the mid-1990s for a reason he couldn't remember. You know, all those people using 5.25" floppies in the mid 90s to back up a flier they'd made in 1991 that no one had ever seen. I'll let Justice Proudman continue.
"He then produced an involved and absurd story about how he had found two disks in a box in 2009, one of which was a mid-90s back up disk ("disk 2") and the other of which, (disk 1) was used to clone the original. He said he took the two disks to a "repair man" and mixed them up by marking the wrong one. His oral evidence did not tally with his witness statement and his evidence about the boxes in which he allegedly found disk 1 and disk 2 was confused and unpersuasive."
But what about the rather suspicious backdating of the images? Did he do that in the mid-90s too? Yes he did! He wanted the disc 1 clone to be "as close as possible to the original", but couldn't quite find the words to explain why. Then a few months later, brilliantly, Langdell found a disc 3, this time definitely the original 1991 disc, even though that was disc 2 and had been lost. The judge adds, "I found his evidence confusing under this head; it is possible that disk 2 and disk 3 were supposed to be one and the same." And as Future's expert pointed out, armed with the information on how he'd proven disc 1 was a fake, it would be easy for Langdell to fake a disc 3. He claimed he was "technically incompetent to do such a thing", which is an odd claim for one of the leading software developers of the 21st century, and the judge called bollocks.
Langdell went further with his deception, producing a "long and tortuous explanation of the emails" he sent to his chosen disc expert. But somehow managed to produce an email response from Steggles to a message the expert had never received. Langdell had invented an email that talked about this "clone" disc in hindsight, to try to cover those tracks. The judge said, "I have no doubt not merely that it was not received but that it was never in fact sent. The overwhelming inference is that the suspect Steggles email was concocted as support for Dr Langdell's story that he had created a cloned disk." To make things absolutely clear she summarises,
"Dr Langdell's story is incredible. The truth is a prosaic one, namely that Dr Langdell concocted disk 1 in support of his claim that he had invented the EDGE logo in 1991. When this was exposed by the claimant's expert he constructed an elaborate explanation and created disk 3, having learned from the Report how to avoid the mistakes he made the first time."
At this point I begin to feel a bit sorry for Langdell. To have told so many lies, and to have weaved yourself so thickly in bullshit for so many years, it must be terrifying when it all starts to unravel. He's clearly a very sorry man, and the exposure of his incompetence, while undeniably gratifying, actually descends quickly into the pathetic. And his continued avoidance of the truth got him into even more trouble in the hearing.
Langdell had refused to let the court read the "without prejudice" correspondence between Langdell and Future prior to the trial. Future had expressed they'd be fine with it, but Dr L wanted it kept from the judge. Future lawyers pointed out that the discs had only been mentioned just before the proceedings had started, his claimed evidence having been described as existing in a paper form before then. Langdell then, rather stupidly, went on to claim that he had made reference to these discs on which his evidence was stored numerous times in this unseen correspondence. He was stating that Future were outright lying. Which the court saw as a waiver in his right to keep the correspondence from the court, and it became available. And of course contained no mention of any discs.
Amazingly Langdell then produced two emails sent to him on 2nd October 2009 and 23rd February 2010 that were sent to him, he claimed, by Future's lawyers and contained mentions of the disc. He said that Future had left these out "deliberately and dishonestly". But this happened during the closing submissions of the case, and the judge was in a predicament. Langdell had returned to the States, and arranging a new court hearing for this new supposed evidence - which would, Proudman points out, support Langdell's case for the discs as evidence - would be "no easy task", and neither side wished for the case to continue. So Justice Proudman chose not to reopen the matter, based on Future's having carried out a full search of its IT systems to find these missing emails, and no such thing appearing. Langdell has not offered to do the same, and won't let Future examine the digital evidence. Their last minute appearance, dubious authenticity, led the judge to believe that they were never sent at all. And Langdell didn't even manage to get the format to match Future's own emails, while they looked suspiciously similar to the suspect email to Steggles and others he seemingly cooked up. The judge says that while she cannot make a ruling of forgery, but she heavily implies it.
Oh, and there's more. Langdell claimed he had unregistered rights to "EDGE" in 1993 and attempted legal action against Future when EDGE magazine appeared. And then that he applied for the trademark in February 1994, which he managed to pay for by December 1996, by which point Future had applied for it too. Impressively, Langdell managed to get £20,000 from Future for the rights to use the name, royalty free, on the magazine. But this included prohibiting Langdell's Edge Interactive Media (EIM) from publishing a magazine similar to EDGE, under the same name, or same logo. He was also prohibited from claiming any association or connection with EDGE magazine or Future. Which isn't exactly what he stuck with.
After he made enough of a pain in the arse of himself, Future bought the rights from him completely. In 2004 Future paid EIM $250,000 and Langdell $25,000 (although as the judge points out, both payments went into Langdell's personal bank account). After much nonsense about the clauses within those agreements that have no bearing on the matter in hand, the case gets around to pointing out that Langdell was deliberately using EDGE magazine's logo to suggest he was involved.
"I have no doubt that the defendants deliberately adopted a logo which is an obvious replica of the claimant's EDGE mark. I was taken to many examples and I mention only the following. The version on the home page of EIM's website in June 2010. A version used in July 2010 on EIM's page on the Café press website. A version used on a letterhead in 2008 and 2009. (Dr Langdell accepted in cross-examination that the logo adopted on his letterhead for the purposes of a letter to the claimant's solicitors was a deliberate copy.) A version used on the homepage of EIM's website between 2003/4 and June 2009. A version used on EIM's game Mythora. Versions used on the game Bobby Bearing."
Dr Langdell even admitted in cross-examination that he had done this deliberately to create an association with Future's magazine.
"He said he believed he had the right to do so but that was on the basis of his assertion, which I have already rejected, that he himself devised the EDGE logo in 1991. The logo was adopted to indicate Dr Langdell's entire business including his own games business and I reject his claim that he only used it on his webpage to promote the claimant's magazine."
The judge then goes on to list a few examples of when Langdell has claimed direct association with EDGE magazine, so far as listing it as part of his company's services, including in a letter to Apple.
Which brings us onto the most significant part of this all. Justice Proudman found that Langdell's breaches of the agreement with Future were "fundamental", which has huge implications. It in fact means that Langdell can no longer benefit from the arrangements made with Future, that allowed him to continue using the EDGE trademark in various ways, and prevented Future from using "EDGE" in association with anything other than magazines. In fact, she ruled that Langdell's abysmal reputation was so bad that it was causing damage to Future merely by the implied association,
It is also concluded that Langdell has, "tried to appropriate for his own business the goodwill associated with EDGE Magazine by statements leading the public to believe that EIM is responsible for EDGE Magazine or that EIM's games are in some way approved or authorised by EDGE Magazine." He was also found to have infringed Future's copyright of the EDGE logo. Claims that EIM and Edge Games make over £100,000 in the UK each year were also ridiculed, pointing out the only evidence Langdell could supply for any UK sales were orders placed by Future! Orders from which they received no products. Also receiving nothing were the courts, when they asked for accounts and evidence of EIM's income, and indeed documents Langdell claimed to be providing failed to be included in packages with cover letters purporting their existence. Langdell waited until immediately before the court date to offer his UK sales figures, when it was too late to investigate them, and even then supplied no evidence to support them. He couldn't even find anyone who had bought a copy of his games to testify. And those weren't the only files that went missing. Over and over again Justice Proudman cites examples where evidence Langdell claims to have sent has not been received, and indeed documents sent to him by recorded delivery that he claims not to have seen.
And there's one last punchline to it all. In attempting to provide evidence that EIM and Edge Games were making money in the UK, Langdell (along with providing an incredibly recent invoice for a company called Creative Distribution Ltd. in Croydon, but unable to remember any pertinent details about the order) offered emails to and from one Randall Copland, of his UK licensee Velocity Micro Inc. (for whom I'm only able to find a US website). In these Copland appears to reply saying of the sales figures for Edge and Gamer's Edge products from 2006 to 2009, "The figure is way over $1m for each year".
The trouble was, when Copland was asked about this in court he said that the emails bore little in common with those that were really sent. The undoctored emails reveal a slightly different sales figure for the time period: nothing whatsoever. Despite some spurious claims that he thought this information was incorrect, Langdell opted not to cross examine Copland. Oddly enough.
Justice Proudson says, in conclusion:
"The claimant therefore succeeds in establishing all claims pursued at trial."
Quite how Langdell hasn't been found in contempt of court for his actions I'm not sure. But then I have no clue how the process works. What we can learn from this, however, is that stuff catches up with you. It's a pitiful sight, seeing a man realise that saying things for years doesn't mean they're true, and his subsequent desperate attempts to find/create evidence. But no matter how sad it all may be, I don't think anyone can take anything away from the highlight moment, the revealing that his 1991 disc with its 1991 files were created with Windows 95. I'll treasure that one.
Thank you so much to Dan Paul for letting us know about this, and to the amazing people behind Chaos Edge for their comprehensive work.