WotC Gale Force 9 Sues WotC [Updated]

In the second lawsuit against WotC in recent weeks (Dragonlance authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sued the company for breach of contract and other things about a month ago), Gale Force 9 is suing the company for breach of contract and implied duty of good faith.

Gale Force 9 produces miniatures, cards, DM screens, and other D&D accessories. They’re asking for damages of nearly a million dollars, as well as an injunction to prevent WotC from terminating the licensing contract.

From the suit, it looks like WotC wanted to end a licensing agreement a year early. When GF9 didn't agree to that, WotC indicated that they would refuse to approve any new licensed products from GF9. It looks like the same sort of approach they took with Weis and Hickman, which also resulted in a lawsuit. The dispute appears to relate to some product translations in non-US markets. More information as I hear it!

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UPDATE. GF9's CEO, Jean-Paul Brisigotti, spoke to ICv2 and said: "After twelve years of working with Wizards, we find ourselves in a difficult place having to utilize the legal system to try and resolve an issue we have spent the last six months trying to amicably handle between us without any success. We still hope this can be settled between us but the timeline for a legal resolution has meant we have been forced to go down this path at this time."

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
What publisher did Disney Buy? Aren't they their own publisher and none of the books in question are published by Disney themselves.
They bought Lucasfilm, which included the rights to the Star Wars novels by Alan Dean Foster, who they are apparently refusing to pay royalties to. It's all in the link.
 

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eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
Seems like their general counsel at Hasbro has some interesting ideas on contract law, since we've seen this twice now.

In this case I would guess the motivations would be to bring this product in house and shore up a revenue stream. The general downside of licensing is if the thing you are licensing is too successful the mother company will want it back as they see it as revenue they are losing out on. This is exactly what happened with Netrunner, and they refused to let FFG renew the license (though they did let the contract simply expire there).
 

mykesfree

Explorer
They bought Lucasfilm, which included the rights to the Star Wars novels by Alan Dean Foster, who they are apparently refusing to pay royalties to. It's all in the link.
Is Lucasfilm a book publisher? I didn't think so. Does the IP asset holder pay royalties or does the book publisher? I don't know these answers.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
My take on this and the Dragonlance suit is that WoTC is probably hurting economically because of Covid-19. They are trying to cut their loses by lawyering out of some contracts.

Now, I'm wondering if players not allowed to play MTG in most gaming stores is hurting WoTC's bottom line. Tournaments and casual play in stores generates a lot of sales for them. It's their business model.
 


embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
My take on this and the Dragonlance suit is that WoTC is probably hurting economically because of Covid-19. They are trying to cut their loses by lawyering out of some contracts.

Now, I'm wondering if players not allowed to play MTG in most gaming stores is hurting WoTC's bottom line. Tournaments and casual play in stores generates a lot of sales for them. It's their business model.

That is the exact opposite of the reality. COVID has helped WotC (and Hasbro).


Moreover, with the success of Critical Role and with a wide array of VTT options and robust broadband infrastructure allowing for continued play (albeit online), D&D has continued record growth apace. 2019 was D&D's best year ever in terms of sales revenue, reflecting large acceptance of 5e, along with the financial success of synergistic partnerships and brand development such as pairing D&D with MTG and cross-branding with Adult Swim and Netflix.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Once is a coincidence. Twice is happenstance. Thrice is enemy action.

It appears to me that there is at least one person at WotC/Hasbro who thinks "not paying your bills" is a good way to cut budgets. I'd like to see the courts put the screws to the company hard enough that the next thieving parasite who proposes this is terminated so fast his 401k catches fire.
You transposed the "once" and "twice" parts, but otherwise make a good observation.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
You transposed the "once" and "twice" parts, but otherwise make a good observation.
I originally heard it that once was a backfire and twice was a coincidence but three times was gunplay.

So I wasn't really sure how that version was supposed to go.
 


Ace

Adventurer
What publisher did Disney Buy? Aren't they their own publisher and none of the books in question are published by Disney themselves.

Should be in the links. Steven Jackson Games was posting the original links and as a publisher themselves they were shocked and irate.
 

Ace

Adventurer
I did like ADF's Splinter of the Mind's Eye...
Me too. Its kind of my "preferred Legends canon." as the pre Brother/Sister dynamic offered a lot more options. Same with the Han Solo books by Brian Daley though I think those are semi canon.

As an aside I'd guess Splinter is probably one of the books Disney is trying to avoid paying on as they own Star Wars.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
To be fair GF9 seem to be using their own set of clauses to justify why one of their subcontractors was allowed to produce shoddy work. Have you ever used a printers and a glaring spelling mistake was in the finished product and they say, well tough we sent you the proof. Yes they are correct legally, but it doesn’t stop it being frustrating and results in bad feeling. Particularly when the printers put the thing together in the first place.
Maybe it was shoddy work, maybe not. Frustration doesn't necessarily give WotC an out from a contract, particularly when, as Gale Force 9 points out, WotC's own approval process gave the product the green light. If Gale Force 9 is following the terms of the contract, WotC should be bound by them as well even if WotC feels their own approvals were bungled.
 

MarkB

Legend
If WotC have actually been doing what's alleged, effectively ending contracts without invoking penalty clauses by blanket-refusing to approve further works, then I have to think that the place this will hit them hardest isn't in these current court cases, but in any future contracts they negotiate.

Given their brand, they need to retain creative approval on any third-party project, but would any reputable company, after these incidents, be willing to risk giving WotC the ability to effectively cripple their operations through misuse of those approval clauses?

At best, I'd expect any such future contracts to have clauses covering this specific issue - stating, effectively, that any such blanket refusal to approve products constitutes an ending of the contract, and invokes whatever conditions would apply to such a premature conclusion.

Regardless, WotC are surely going to have a harder time finding partners who are willing to work with them.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
It seems someone in Legal has a shiny new toy they want to try out in court multiple times. This will settle out of court because GF9 doesn't want to waste resources on litigation. Especially if the contract expires in a year.
It is not a good look for WotC. Honor your contracts.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
That is the exact opposite of the reality. COVID has helped WotC (and Hasbro).


Moreover, with the success of Critical Role and with a wide array of VTT options and robust broadband infrastructure allowing for continued play (albeit online), D&D has continued record growth apace. 2019 was D&D's best year ever in terms of sales revenue, reflecting large acceptance of 5e, along with the financial success of synergistic partnerships and brand development such as pairing D&D with MTG and cross-branding with Adult Swim and Netflix.

That's Hasbro overall not WotC in particular.

WotC is heavily reliant on in person gaming with MtG.

You can also downplay and spin financial reports.
 

TheSword

Legend
Maybe it was shoddy work, maybe not. Frustration doesn't necessarily give WotC an out from a contract, particularly when, as Gale Force 9 points out, WotC's own approval process gave the product the green light. If Gale Force 9 is following the terms of the contract, WotC should be bound by them as well even if WotC feels their own approvals were bungled.
If the relationship breaks down, you can’t blame a business for pulling away from a business partner if contractual terms allow that process. Perhaps non-approval is an out, perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps WOC just wants out and this is one way of achieving that, no doubt at a cost. GF9 get a payout, WoC gets out of their uncomfortable contract, albeit paying a bit to achieve that. I don’t see the problem. People are talking like WOC are the Dark Lords of the Sith.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
If the relationship breaks down, you can’t blame a business for pulling away from a business partner if contractual terms allow that process. Perhaps non-approval is an out, perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps WOC just wants out and this is one way of achieving that, no doubt at a cost. GF9 get a payout, WoC gets out of their uncomfortable contract, albeit paying a bit to achieve that. I don’t see the problem. People are talking like WOC are the Dark Lords of the Sith.

That's fine normally you have to pay them though.

Or just let the contract run out and not renew it.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If the relationship breaks down, you can’t blame a business for pulling away from a business partner if contractual terms allow that process. Perhaps non-approval is an out, perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps WOC just wants out and this is one way of achieving that, no doubt at a cost. GF9 get a payout, WoC gets out of their uncomfortable contract, albeit paying a bit to achieve that. I don’t see the problem. People are talking like WOC are the Dark Lords of the Sith.
Maybe not Dark Lords of the Sith - but maybe faithless or unreliable business partners.
 

TheSword

Legend
Maybe not Dark Lords of the Sith - but maybe faithless or unreliable business partners.
Interesting that you would make that assumption. There was a Korean poster earlier who confirmed TRPG was a crappy producer that delivers shoddy work. You don’t think WoC have a right to be protective of their IP?
 

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