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A TSR Announces a Star Frontiers Reboot

One of the new TSRs (yes there are now two TSRs!) has announced a reboot of Star Frontiers, the sci-fi game made by the original TSR back in the 1980s. Star Frontiers was a percentile dice roleplaying game set in a galaxy with four races (Human, Dralasite, Vrusk, and Yazirian) which were re-used by WotC in d20 Future in 2004.

Happy to announce that in addition to our flagship new world and game system by James M. Ward & Dinehart, GiantLands, and Justin LaNasa's children's RPG Tales & Tots, our next internal project "Star Frontiers", a reboot of the original, is currently in preproduction and has Larry Elmore attached. Stay tuned for more details!

It appears that one of the new TSRs registered the trademark in April. More if I hear it!

You can currently buy the game from WotC on DriveThruRpg, so I'm not sure how that works. When asked about this on Facebook, one of the TSRs answered:

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Of course, Evil Hat Productions registered the Star Frontiers trademark, too, back in July 2017.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

pemerton

Legend
Flirting with legal disaster is how.

Note that WotC's "recent" use predates the registration by new TSR aka Ernie Gygax et al, as well as continuing after. If they fail to defend it, it'll be voided, and if they try to enforce it on Wizards, they get buried in paper... and probably wind up bankrupt.
It's not clear to me how the registered trademark interacts with trademarks WotC is using - which now I think about it not just Star Frontiers, but TSR as well!

But the bigger puzzle for me is the likelihood that WotC enjoys copyright in the logos that new TSR has registered as part of its TSR trademark. So how is new TSR (legally) using those logos in its trademark applications? How will it (legally) publish books on which those logos appear.
 

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DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
Basically, I'm guessing he believes he should have the legal right to do what he's doing, and thus that he does have the legal right to do so and wouldn't understand why he doesn't nor why he shouldn't. A lot of people just have this very weird blind spot when it comes to the law, where they can't accept that something they want to do is actually illegal, or legitimately illegal; the reason so very few people have a reasonable grasp of the law is because the majority absolutely refuse to grasp any law that inconveniences them.

Try explaining how the OGL and the SRD work to someone who really wants to publish something that isn't allowed, and you'll understand.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
So, TSR III doesn't have the rights to the Star Frontiers setting. We already have FrontierSpace by Bill Logan, who is an actual fan of the original rpg. I'm not interested in yet another version without the original setting and races.
 

It's not clear to me how the registered trademark interacts with trademarks WotC is using - which now I think about it not just Star Frontiers, but TSR as well!

But the bigger puzzle for me is the likelihood that WotC enjoys copyright in the logos that new TSR has registered as part of its TSR trademark. So how is new TSR (legally) using those logos in its trademark applications? How will it (legally) publish books on which those logos appear.
Not very joyful thought... there's a certain number of copies at which copyright infringement becomes criminal under US law, not just civil/administrative... more than 10 copies of 1 or more works with a worth more than $2500 total within 180 days, and for expectation of monetary gain (18 U.S.C. § 2319).


and no, I should not have gone into law. I much prefer having been an educator, as I choke in court.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't think that's right. It's about the need to prove the distinctive character of the trademark in trade in a particular geographic region. The fact that you're trading online doesn't stop you proving that. Whether it makes it easier or harder seems to me a question of fact depending on how many customers you have and where they are encountering your mark and purchasing your marked products.
This article doesn't really provide a definitive answer, but it does talk about the confusion I mentioned.

 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
This article doesn't really provide a definitive answer, but it does talk about the confusion I mentioned.

The one thing I'm certain of is that these guys at "TSR" haven't done their homework.
 


pemerton

Legend
This article doesn't really provide a definitive answer, but it does talk about the confusion I mentioned.

It seems to agree with my post upthread that it is "a question of fact depending on how many customers you have and where they are encountering your mark and purchasing your marked products." From that website:

It seems that the devil really here is in the details and in any infringement and enforcement action, the Courts will have to pay very close attention to a website’s real-life effect. . . .

the prospective applicant [who] insists on only relying on Common Law rights . . . should proactively keep track of the where/what/when/how the trademark was used. Business owners should carefully document all relevant data regarding their sales, advertising, growth, unique visitors.​
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It seems to agree with my post upthread that it is "a question of fact depending on how many customers you have and where they are encountering your mark and purchasing your marked products." From that website:

It seems that the devil really here is in the details and in any infringement and enforcement action, the Courts will have to pay very close attention to a website’s real-life effect. . . .​
the prospective applicant [who] insists on only relying on Common Law rights . . . should proactively keep track of the where/what/when/how the trademark was used. Business owners should carefully document all relevant data regarding their sales, advertising, growth, unique visitors.​
It seemed to potentially agree with both of us. It talked about how much business you do in a particular area being what the courts should look at, rather than just a presence on the world wide web.

I don't think(but don't know for sure) that Star Frontiers sells all that many copies, and those copies are likely spread out across the country. Their customer presence any any particular areas is probably pretty small.
 

pemerton

Legend
It seemed to potentially agree with both of us. It talked about how much business you do in a particular area being what the courts should look at, rather than just a presence on the world wide web.

I don't think(but don't know for sure) that Star Frontiers sells all that many copies, and those copies are likely spread out across the country. Their customer presence any any particular areas is probably pretty small.
I think the prospects of WotC establishing that they have a protectable trademark in respect of Star Frontiers would be pretty good. In the market for RPGs it's a widely recognised mark, and has been for many years; and WotC and its predecessor TSR have sold many many copies of the game using that mark.
 

darjr

I crit!
So pick up your Star Frontiers PDFs ASAP.
Cause I have a bad feeling about this.
Irony would be that “TSR” gets them unavailable because of their actions.
 
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BoxCrayonTales

Adventurer
I'm not interested in yet another version without the original setting and races.
Ditto. I wish somebody would get a license from WotC to make a new edition of d20 Modern and revive TSR’s forgotten settings like Star Frontiers, Alternity, Amazing Engine, Gamma World, etc.

Does anybody have a comprehensive list of retroclones of the old TSR games/settings?
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
So pick up your Star Frontiers PDFs ASAP.
Cause I have a bad feeling about this.
Irony would be that “TSR” gets them unavailable because of their actions.

Eh, I doubt WotC is going to tear them down because a tiny TSR thinks they can republish it. The silverback gorilla isn't going to back down from a mosquito bite!


Anyone interested, these products can be purchased from WotC here.
 

darjr

I crit!
Eh, I doubt WotC is going to tear them down because a tiny TSR thinks they can republish it. The silverback gorilla isn't going to back down from a mosquito bite!


Anyone interested, these products can be purchased from WotC here.
No, but they’d listen to a judge. I know WotC would crush “TSR” if they so chose. But in the short term who knows? And WotC would have to decide to crush them. I think they would but PDFs have been pulled for stranger reasons. Short term being some indefinite time.

adding the link was nice. Thanks for that.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
No, but they’d listen to a judge. I know WotC would crush “TSR” if they so chose. But in the short term who knows? And WotC would have to decide to crush them. I think they would but PDFs have been pulled for stranger reasons.

Trademarks don't work retroactively like this. TSR created and owned these modules, WotC bought the company so owns the material. Another company registering a lapsed trademark (and the legality of even this is in doubt) doesn't mean that WotC can't keep selling the original material.

No judge, or even a bad lawyer, could reasonably conclude otherwise.
 


darjr

I crit!
Here’s the old thread when Evil Hat registered the trademark.

 

Davies

Hero
The hadozee originally appeared in the Spelljammer campaign setting as a monster, and as a PC race in The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook. I've noticed the resemblance before, too, and I've always wondered if it was intentional... but if it was intentional, why did they change the name? If it wasn't intentional, it's a hell of a coincidence.
It wasn't a coincidence. There are thinly disguised Dralasites ("Degleash plasmoid"), Sathar ("syllix"), and Vrusk ("rastipede") in the same Monstrous Compendium appendix that introduced the hadozee. I don't know why they did this, but it clearly was intentional.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
It wasn't a coincidence. There are thinly disguised Dralasites ("Degleash plasmoid"), Sathar ("syllix"), and Vrusk ("rastipede") in the same Monstrous Compendium appendix that introduced the hadozee. I don't know why they did this, but it clearly was intentional.
Right, I forgot about vrusk and rastipedes because I generally forget about rastipedes. Were the plasmoids and syllix playable?
 


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