Gary Gygax's Widow & TSR Settle Trademark Dispute


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  • [UPDATED AGAIN] Gary Gygax's Widow & TSR Settle Trademark Dispute


    Gail Gygax has just sent me a short statement regarding the resolution of a trademark dispute between herself and the owners of Gygax Magazine. Gail is, of course, the late Gary Gygax's wife, and some of the owners of the magazine are his sons [update - both left the company a while back]. A quick look at USPTO.gov reveals the trademark application by Gail Gygax in 2013, which I'm given to understand was challenged by TSR, Inc. that same year. TSR, Inc. was formed a couple of years ago to produce the (at the time) new Gygax Magazine; it's not the original TSR founded in 1973 and sold to WotC in 1997. The statement reads as follows.

    The Gail C. Gygax Revocable Trust, owner of the intellectual property of the late E. Gary Gygax, and TSR, Inc., a corporation formed by Jayson Elliot, Tim Kask, Ernie Gygax, Luke Gygax and James Carpio have reached a mutually agreeable resolution of their trademark dispute at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Pursuant to their agreement, the Trust will license the Gygax Magazine trademark to TSR on a non-exclusive basis.

    UPDATE: I've been informed by a representative of Luke and Ernie Gygax that both of them left the company. Mrs. Gygax reached a settlement with TSR, Inc., and Luke and Ernie have both withdrawn from TSR as a result of the settlement. Neither of them are affiliated with the company any longer.

    Ernie Gygax has now made a public Facebook post about the matter which makes it clear that this settlement was not arrived at amicably.

    It is with a heavy heart that I have had to remove myself from TSR and GYGAX magazine. Benoist and I will continue to share original old school gaming. All of which I learned at my fathers side, just as Luke and I also learned how to repair shoes in our youth. I am awake now at 2:42 AM as foolishness infringes on my ability to even enjoy a sound nights rest. I am proud to one of Gary's many offspring and just wish that I had his drive and fortitude to generate material as he did. Yet the acorn doesn't fall far from the Oak and the work that will be created will be in honor of his memory. I wish it to be said that both Tim Kask and R Scott Taylor refused to sign the deal as well when asked.

    So it sounds like both parties have reached an agreement, that's it's far from amicable, that Gail Gygax's trust owns the Gygax trademark, but that the trademark is licensed to TSR, Inc. The statement doesn't indicate how long that license is for, or whether any other terms are attached. And, of course, the trademarked name is the actual name of Gygax's sons Luke and Ernie, which is why they refused sign the settlement.

    You can see the trademark applications here at USPTO.gov. Gail Gygax made an application on March 4th, 2013. Gygax Magazine #1 was released the month before that, in February 2013. TSR, Inc made an application for the same trademark on September 30th, 2013. There are some similar entries for other dates.

    You'll find Gygax Magazine here. It appears that Gail's trust also made an application for Gygaxian on August 7th this year.

    A little background - I know most who read this know who Gary Gygax was, but new people are coming into the hobby all the time. This is the super-short version. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (both sadly passed) co-created Dungeons & Dragons back in the 1970s. The whole history of Gygax and TSR is fraught with conflict - Gary was ousted from the original TSR, he and Arneson fell out, and of course Gail Gygax and the new TSR, Inc. (which until recently included Gary's sons Luke and Ernie) have been embroiled in the above legal dispute for two years. This long interview with Gary Gygax is a fascinating read. The whole history has been, to put it mildly, litigious!


    Comments 73 Comments
    1. Alzrius's Avatar
      Alzrius -
      I guess all's well that ends well.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      Its good that they can settle.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      I just got an update noting that Luke and Ernie have both withdrawn from TSR as a result of the settlement. Neither of them are affiliated with the company any longer.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      This doesn't seem good. Rats.
    1. Alzrius's Avatar
      Alzrius -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      I just got an update noting that Luke and Ernie have both withdrawn from TSR as a result of the settlement. Neither of them are affiliated with the company any longer.
      Crap on a stick! That really casts a shadow over this entire resolution...to the point where I'm not sure it can even be called that.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      It has to suck to not have the legality to use your own last name, your fathers last name, for your own endeavors.
    1. Flexor the Mighty!'s Avatar
      Flexor the Mighty! -
      Yeah that's kind of a bummer. Gygax's stuff has been a mess since he died, hopefully this settlement doesn't end up torpedoing the magazine in the long run.
    1. Alzrius's Avatar
      Alzrius -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Yeah that's kind of a bummer. Gygax's stuff has been a mess since he died, hopefully this settlement doesn't end up torpedoing the magazine in the long run.
      I feel optimistic in that regard. There are a lot of very talented people working on the magazine, and even if they aren't part of the staff anymore Luke and Ernie can still contribute articles.
    1. Sqn Cdr Flashheart's Avatar
      Sqn Cdr Flashheart -
      Mm intra-family disputes are not nice

      I hope this means that Gygax magazine will continue to sell and, maybe, we'll see Gary's IP opened up to 3P licencing for new products! Castle Zagyg not being finished was so sad .
    1. Dire Bare's Avatar
      Dire Bare -
      If I understand the family history, Luke and Ernie are Gary's son by a previous spouse, not Gail. It's a shame that the two branches of the family don't seem to get along, but sometimes that's how it goes, I certainly hold no judgment on any of the parties involved.

      Gary's last name is more than just a last name now shared with his sons, it's a trademark. That's part of the deal when you become famous! And Gary's wife, Gail, has every right to want to retain and control that trademark, even over any rights his son's might claim.

      Luke and Ernie are more than just Gary's sons, they are both part of the history and legacy of D&D as they were some of its earliest players! But, they are not its creators, nor are they (to the best of my knowledge) significant contributors. It is a bit weird and a shame they can't capitalize on their own last name and their connection with their father, but, Gail's rights do take precedence, both legally and morally (IMO).

      But with this settlement, I don't think fans of Gygax magazine have anything to worry about. The magazine gets to retain its title and continue on, business as usual. Well, perhaps minus a licensing fee maybe. It's a bummer that Luke and Ernie felt the need to leave the company over this decision, but I can respect their feelings.

      Still though, whenever I check out the magazine's website, I can't escape the feeling that between Gygax's name, the company's name, and the ripped-off trade dress from Dragon, that there is too much of a appeal to nostalgia, more than quality of content. It feels, disingenuous, to me.
    1. Nikosandros's Avatar
      Nikosandros -
      I'm sure that Gail has the legal rights, but what is she doing with Gary's IP? She's just sitting on it. Of course it is her privilege, but it's still disappointing.
    1. skraig1's Avatar
      skraig1 -
      EGG Jr. Is actively creating his own MegaDungeon, the Marmorial Tomb. It was a very successful Kickstarter campaign. $126,110 to be exact. He even posted today so he does not appear to be very discouraged. Let's all hope for the best, maybe after piloting his own IP out into the world he will have the opportunity to bring us some of the unpublished work from the old days.
    1. Cody C. Lewis's Avatar
      Cody C. Lewis -
      What a damn shame.

      To me this reeks of pettiness.

      This is pure speculation, but I can't think of any other scenarios:

      Either:
      a.) Part of the agreement from Gail was that the sons are no longer affiliated. Petty
      b.) The other founders were so upset at being put into this predicament they forced the brothers out. Petty
      c.) The brothers were so ashamed or upset at the events they walked away. Petty
      d.) Maybe the incident put such a bad taste in their mouths they lost their desire to continue. Understandable
      e.) I don't know, probably something to do with the "Time Warp". The song... not anything 'Doctor Who' related
    1. Flexor the Mighty!'s Avatar
      Flexor the Mighty! -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dire Bare View Post
      If I understand the family history, Luke and Ernie are Gary's son by a previous spouse, not Gail. It's a shame that the two branches of the family don't seem to get along, but sometimes that's how it goes, I certainly hold no judgment on any of the parties involved.

      Gary's last name is more than just a last name now shared with his sons, it's a trademark. That's part of the deal when you become famous! And Gary's wife, Gail, has every right to want to retain and control that trademark, even over any rights his son's might claim.

      Luke and Ernie are more than just Gary's sons, they are both part of the history and legacy of D&D as they were some of its earliest players! But, they are not its creators, nor are they (to the best of my knowledge) significant contributors. It is a bit weird and a shame they can't capitalize on their own last name and their connection with their father, but, Gail's rights do take precedence, both legally and morally (IMO).

      But with this settlement, I don't think fans of Gygax magazine have anything to worry about. The magazine gets to retain its title and continue on, business as usual. Well, perhaps minus a licensing fee maybe. It's a bummer that Luke and Ernie felt the need to leave the company over this decision, but I can respect their feelings.

      Still though, whenever I check out the magazine's website, I can't escape the feeling that between Gygax's name, the company's name, and the ripped-off trade dress from Dragon, that there is too much of a appeal to nostalgia, more than quality of content. It feels, disingenuous, to me.
      Have you read a copy of the magazine? Issue 1 was not that great but it gotten better and has covered AD&D, 5e, general D&D stuff, Godlike, Top Secret, DCC, and general RPG stuff. Its a mix of old and new. Yes the magazine is definitely channelling Dragon from the Mohan era but its not bad.
    1. Dire Bare's Avatar
      Dire Bare -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Have you read a copy of the magazine? Issue 1 was not that great but it gotten better and has covered AD&D, 5e, general D&D stuff, Godlike, Top Secret, DCC, and general RPG stuff. Its a mix of old and new. Yes the magazine is definitely channelling Dragon from the Mohan era but its not bad.
      I remember looking at early issues and not being overly impressed. I'll totally believe you if you tell me that the magazine has improved significantly. And, I am actually glad it exists, as it obviously fills a need and you can never have enough gaming zines.

      I'm even tempted to purchase some of the more recent issues, and I'm sure I'd find something fun. Each individual "sin" (using the word tongue-in-cheek) isn't all that bad by itself, but collectively, appropriating the old company name, appropriating Gygax's last name, and appropriating the EXACT SAME TRADE DRESS as a particular era of Dragon . . . it's too much, and turns me off to the product.

      Nostalgia is cool, but for me, they've gone too far. Not that anybody should care about that, it's just the reason I never gave the magazine much attention, and probably won't in the future.
    1. Dire Bare's Avatar
      Dire Bare -
      Quote Originally Posted by dakotahorn View Post
      What a damn shame.

      To me this reeks of pettiness.

      This is pure speculation, but I can't think of any other scenarios:

      Either:
      a.) Part of the agreement from Gail was that the sons are no longer affiliated. Petty
      b.) The other founders were so upset at being put into this predicament they forced the brothers out. Petty
      c.) The brothers were so ashamed or upset at the events they walked away. Petty
      d.) Maybe the incident put such a bad taste in their mouths they lost their desire to continue. Understandable
      e.) I don't know, probably something to do with the "Time Warp". The song... not anything 'Doctor Who' related
      I don't see the situation as petty. Gail, Gary's widow, had certain goals and desires that conflicted with the goals/desires of Gary's sons. It's a shame, but folks disagree and can become upset over outcomes without pettiness being involved.

      And ultimately, while we are all curious and we're all talking about it, it isn't any of our business. I'm very certain we don't have all the details, and probably never will. As long as the magazine keeps trucking and making its fans happy, really, what else is there?
    1. Dire Bare's Avatar
      Dire Bare -
      Quote Originally Posted by skraig1 View Post
      EGG Jr. Is actively creating his own MegaDungeon, the Marmorial Tomb. It was a very successful Kickstarter campaign. $126,110 to be exact. He even posted today so he does not appear to be very discouraged. Let's all hope for the best, maybe after piloting his own IP out into the world he will have the opportunity to bring us some of the unpublished work from the old days.
      Just checked this out, and sorry I missed it! Haven't gotten into the OSR scene, but this Kickstarter offering looks like its packed full of awesome!

      Hopefully, all of the important parts will be available online at some point (legally).
    1. Dire Bare's Avatar
      Dire Bare -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nikosandros View Post
      I'm sure that Gail has the legal rights, but what is she doing with Gary's IP? She's just sitting on it. Of course it is her privilege, but it's still disappointing.
      Do you really know that? Or, perhaps, is Gail and her partners working on things you just aren't aware of? I don't know. You don't either.
    1. Corrosive's Avatar
      Corrosive -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dire Bare View Post
      And ultimately, while we are all curious and we're all talking about it, it isn't any of our busines
      Sure it is. While they email Morrus with the details for publication, it's totally our business.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dire Bare View Post
      Gary's last name is more than just a last name now shared with his sons, it's a trademark. That's part of the deal when you become famous! And Gary's wife, Gail, has every right to want to retain and control that trademark, even over any rights his son's might claim.
      Except that she apparently applied for the Trademark in March 2013 and Gygax Magazine #1 was released in Feb of that year. It's lucky the settlement suits everyone, because otherwise it might have gotten... interesting.
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