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TSR Now it’s WotC’s Turn: WotC Moves Against TSR3

I guess after you provoke somebody enough, they’ll eventually bite back. The company has begun trademark cancellation procedures against the newest TSR.

TSR3 briefly filed for a court declaration on Dec 7th as to their ownership of the TSR trademarks — with an IndieGoGo campaign to fund it — and then voluntarily dismissed it a couple of days later on Dec 9th.

This filing is dated Dec 6th, the day before TSR3 launched its campaign.

In WotC’s response, they cite fraud as one of the causes of action, alleging that TSR3 misled the trademark office in its original application.

Mike Dunford, on Twitter, breaks down the action.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I mean, is the trademark actually worth anything at this point? I suggest that they won’t actually be losing anything. They’ve ground the brand into the dust. Nobody would touch it with a bargepole.

Nobody other than WotC, who will still sell the classic pdf titles using it, if only because taking the brand images off the pdfs would be a pain.

If they really wanted to, for the 50th, they could put out a line of classic style modules, by old-hand designers, under that brand, and it'd probably sell really well.
I still think it can be salvaged. Then again, I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to things I have nostalgia for. I would love for someone to propose to WotC, "Hey, can I license the use of the TSR logos? You can review the products for approval to ensure it aligns with the company's vision while capturing the nostalgia, aesthetics, and gameplay of early D&D without the problematic areas, hiring some of those old guard as contributors and creators." There are lots of OSR grognards like myself who are fully on board with the direction D&D has gone in the context of inclusion and diversity. We're not all like Pundit, Venger, or LaNasa. Inclusion and old school D&D are not mutually exclusive.

Heck, I'd love to do such a rebranding project myself, but I doubt I have the funds to meet what WotC would ask for even if they were interested.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I still think it can be salvaged. Then again, I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to things I have nostalgia for. I would love for someone to propose to WotC, "Hey, can I license the use of the TSR logos? You can review the products for approval to ensure it aligns with the company's vision while capturing the nostalgia, aesthetics, and gameplay of early D&D without the problematic areas, hiring some of those old guard as contributors and creators."

The thing in the way of that vision is that WotC has no need to license it out to someone else to do this. They can do it all on their own.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
The thing in the way of that vision is that WotC has no need to license it out to someone else to do this. They can do it all on their own.
true. the only selling point is more profit for them for no additional work or hiring costs on their end. This would be such a tiny % of revenue though, it wouldn't even be a blip on their radar though, I suspect.
 


dirtypool

Explorer
There's also a zero chance they would not license the work or pay the author in some way. Accepting free work from an author is a recipe for a legal battle if the work is successful.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Incorrect - they'd have to have editorial review and such.
spending an hour to review a product to ensure it's not including anything problematic is much different than hiring freelancers or using full staff to write and design the product. Heck, they wouldn't even have to to that. They could license out to someone who already has a portfolio, and see if any of that portfolio work has any issues before licensing. I.e., they could look at publishers like Pundit, Venger, LaNasa and clearly see how they wouldn't align with current WotC vision, and look at others (start with the red companies on that infamous list lol) and have more comfort in just doing a license and that's it; no more work on their side.
There's also a zero chance they would not license the work or pay the author in some way. Accepting free work from an author is a recipe for a legal battle if the work is successful.
Companies license out IP all the time without paying those users of the license. It's the other way around. They're doing it right now. When you use DM's Guild (or the OGL in general), you are using a license. DMsGuild gives them a cut IIRC (but I could be mistaken). They aren't paying the creators extra to put their licensed material on DMsGuild, they are taking a cut from it.

The TSR logos aren't really being used by WoTC outside of DMsGuild and DTRPG for legacy products. It's not that unreasonable for them to license out the logos to others since they've already shown they are amicable ot licenses, and it would be an extra cut to them without them having to do any extra work, just like DMsGuild does now. Just determine the terms for the license.
 

dirtypool

Explorer
spending an hour to review a product to ensure it's not including anything problematic is much different than hiring freelancers or using full staff to write and design the product.
Yeah, an hour of work isn't how product reviews work in the industry, and you know that.
Companies license out IP all the time without paying those users of the license.
Hence my statement that they would either license the material (put you under a contract which would require them to pay lawyers) or pay the author. This was in reference to your statement that there would be no additional cost to WOTC, I presented two possible costs, either a legal fee or a direct payment. I didn't even get into the simple stuff like promotional costs.
It's the other way around. They're doing it right now. When you use DM's Guild (or the OGL in general), you are using a license. DMsGuild gives them a cut IIRC (but I could be mistaken). They aren't paying the creators extra to put their licensed material on DMsGuild, they are taking a cut from it.
The DM's Guild is a usage of the OGL which is a fair use license that excludes D&D specific content. There is zero quality control on the DM's Guild and while it is a great tool to democratize access to content, it is not built for high quality revision to existing materials Were you revising existing D&D Material for re-release they would enter into a separate license with you. You would be treated like a 3PP and not at all like an independent entity selling their homebrew content in the established homebrew marketplace.
The TSR logos aren't really being used by WoTC outside of DMsGuild and DTRPG for legacy products. It's not that unreasonable for them to license out the logos to others since they've already shown they are amicable ot licenses, and it would be an extra cut to them without them having to do any extra work, just like DMsGuild does now. Just determine the terms for the license.
It would absolutely be unreasonable to license out the logos that they use as trade dress, because it would create brand confusion over which entity is the creator and publisher of official content. That's the whole point of trademarks. It's a strange thing to suggest in the article about WOTC protecting their trademark that what they really should do is weaken it instead.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
spending an hour to review a product to ensure it's not including anything problematic is much different than hiring freelancers or using full staff to write and design the product.

I don't expect Hasbro/WotC would find "an hour" to review. They'd have a very specific interest in the quality of the product, as it would bear their trademark, so review would likely not limited to just looking for language use.

This is not to say that licensing it out would not be cheaper, but it may not be cheaper enough to justify doing it that way.
 


dirtypool

Explorer
It is completely separate from the OGL, it is an agreement between Wizards of the Coast and OneBookShelf to supplement the OGL to allow users to publish 5th edition content and use D&D Materials so long as it is set in The Forgotten Realms(initially, the available settings of course expanded.) Anything outside of 5th edition or Forgotten Realms is not able to be covered by supplement and must conform to the SRD provided through the OGL.
 
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bonchon

Explorer
The fraud claim kind of seals this one. LaNasa filed for the trademark knowing it was still in use by Wizards of the Coast. He cited the attempt by Evil Hat to register Star Frontiers in 2016. Star Frontiers was a big part of TSR3's marketing when they launched this past summer, just behind Giantland.

The biggest irony though? LaNasa's statements about the legacy disclaimer seal that he knew Wizards of the Coast was still using the trademark. The only way he'd know about the disclaimer is if he knew that Wizards was still selling those products and still using the trademarks.

So even if LaNasa could prove trademark dilution or abandonment by claiming that Jayson Elliot's use of the TSR name for TSR2 from 2009 to 2021 without action from Wizards of the Coast proved they abandoned the trademark, he's still going to get all of his claims to the trademark dismissed because he perjured himself in filing the applications.

I've also got a sneaking suspicion this isn't going to be the last of it either because trademark is only half of it. There's still the issue of the copyright on the artwork that LaNasa is using. If Wizards of the Coast's legal team is coming out swinging like this, I seriously doubt they're going to let that one stand.

The moral of this story: If the bear is sleeping, do not poke it.
Hey, this is Jayson Elliot.

Our use of the TSR name was as a separate brand - we created our own logo, and always took care to point out that we were a completely new company, not related to the original TSR. For us, the name was just a tribute.

This LaNasa company tried to use copyrighted art that belongs to Wizards, and even claimed to actually be the original TSR.
We created a new brand of our own, while they tried to impersonate an old company and use someone else's design mark. That's where they got into trouble.
 


They're just trying to get the trademark registration cancelled. That's all. They're not suing him or trying to claim damages or anything.

It's not WotC who'll be chasing TSR for money, it's TSR's lawyers.

I'm completely ignorant about whether it's possible or likely that a court might award costs to one side in a case like this, but if so, TSR could be saddled with the bill for WotCs lawyers too. Which is entirely academic of course - I suspect the end result of this shemozzle will be TSR getting wound up and TSR4 springing into existence immediately, and that the likelihood of anyone getting paid by any iteration of TSR for this debacle is pretty minimal.
 




embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Maybe it's just because I like Steve martin so much, but Stuart R. Dunwoody looks like a cool guy to hang out with.
A) I can't afford the high-end stuff that he undoubtedly drinks.

B) I can't afford his hourly rate, which is probably north of $1,000 an hour. For some perspective, 15 years ago, when I was a lowly junior associate, I was billed out at $350 an hour.
 

adamantyr

Explorer
What value does TSR even have now as a brand? The company that it represents is long gone. Does the TTRPG community really want to see it become the gross characterture that Atari has become in the video game industry?

WotC is doing the right thing with the old TSR branded products, making them available still but with a disclaimer. They could have just yanked them from digital download entirely.
 


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