Renegade Studios Sends C&D To Stop Small Creator Using The Word 'Renegade'

Renegade City creator receives demand to rename new game.

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Every few years in the TTRPG industry, this happens--a company attempts to prevent others from using certain words in their product names. Normally, that's a trademark issue and perfectly understandable: you can't call your game 'Dungeons & Dragons' for obvious reasons. But sometimes companies call in the lawyers to stop usage of common words or terms which are not trademarks in themselves. Games Workshop and 'space marine' hit mainstream news about 10 years ago, Lone Wolf issued C&Ds over the term 'army builder' in 2010, and now Renegade Game Studios--which makes a number of licensed TTRPGs such as Transformers, GI Joe, and Vampire: The Masquerade--has apparently laid claim to the word 'renegade'. This often results in the Streisand Effect and has the opposite result to that intended.

The Polyhedral Knights had a recent Kickstarter for a game called 'Renegade City' which is billed as a tabletop RPG where you play criminals, and uses dominoes rather than dice. According to Cannibal Halfling Gaming, a couple of days ago The Polyhedral Knights received a letter from Renegade Game Studios' lawyers demanding that they remove the word 'Renegade' from the title of the game.

“Unfortunately, your use of the term “Renegade” in the title of your new game creates the likelihood that consumers might be confused between our client’s games and your game, or believe that the two are connected or affiliated. The likelihood of confusion is particularly acute because you are using the “Renegade” element on the identical types of products that are sold by Renegade, and you are both selling to the same types of consumers in the same market channels. As such, Renegade must ask that you agree to rename your game to remove the “Renegade” element. As such, Renegade must ask that you agree to rename your game to remove the “Renegade” element.”

Renegade Game Studios has allegedly threatened to issue a trademark complaint to Kickstarter (although the campaign is over, so it's a little late for that!) unless The Polyhedral Knights complies by June 23rd.

Mickey Barfield, the creator of Renegade City, spoke to Cannibal Halfling Gaming a couple of days ago:

“It really caught me off guard and frankly upset me. I am blown away at how they can think that my game title “Renegade City” will take away from them in any shape or fashion. Our Kickstarter is about to end in 9 hours [3:08 PM EDT] and we just now get this? I’m still pretty hurt over this. It seems like if they are willing to go after me over something like this, then what is stopping another company like Wizards of the Coast from going after some other company cause the word Wizard is used in a title of a book or game? It’s crazy.”

The news first broke on Twitter when Sprinting Owl Designs reported that "a designer I've previously worked with (The Polyhedral Knights) reports that he just got cease and desisted by Renegade Game Studios (Hunter 5e, GI Joe) for having the word 'renegade' in his game's title."
 

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Abstruse

Legend
Hey, remember that time Games Workshop tried to use the flawed trademark claim system of a large corporation to bully a small, independent creator by claiming they owned a relatively common English phrase that had a long prior history in the genre and how badly it backfired by turning them into a laughing stock as the story reached far beyond the typical gaming circles and they had to do a huge amount of PR damage control? Just popped into my mind for some reason...
 


I get that any trademark holder needs to step up and defend their TM or else it sets a precedent and you lose it, but these cases really are... nuts to me. And the timing - to wait until the company's Kickstarter is hours from finishing? (Again, we don't know that that's the first time Renegade Studios said something but... we'll find out)

To me, it's like how Smuckers' lawyers went after a bakery for making crustless white bread, since they'd trademarked PB&J without crusts
 

Abstruse

Legend
I get that any trademark holder needs to step up and defend their TM or else it sets a precedent and you lose it, but these cases really are... nuts to me. And the timing - to wait until the company's Kickstarter is hours from finishing? (Again, we don't know that that's the first time Renegade Studios said something but... we'll find out)

To me, it's like how Smuckers' lawyers went after a bakery for making crustless white bread, since they'd trademarked PB&J without crusts
There are several problems with using the "they have to defend it to keep it" trademark law defense here. Yes, a company has to defend its trademark in order to keep the trademark under US intellectual property law. However:
  1. They own the trademark to "Renegade Game Studios" not simply the word "Renegade" on its own. They have no claims to the trademark for the word "Renegade" even in use in tabletop roleplaying games.
  2. There are over 300 titles on DriveThruRPG using the word "Renegade" in their titles, including the old FASA game Renegade Legions, the Onyx Path game Deviant: The Renegades, and the Mongoose "Renegade" line of class guides from the 3.x OGL era. I don't see Renegade Game Studio trying to bite the hand that feeds them by demanding Paradox pull down the old Renegades RPG from White Wolf.
  3. They aren't threatening to sue. Because that would mean having to prove their claims in court. Instead, they're whining to Kickstarter's trademark enforcement team as an end-around on the legal system.
There's a reason I brought up the Games Workshop "Space Marines" thing because this is precisely what they tried to do - appeal directly to Amazon to get a book from an independent self-published author pulled from sale. This has nothing to do with enforcing trademark as required under the law because, if that's what they wanted to do, they'd go to court not complain to Kickstarter.
 

There are several problems with using the "they have to defend it to keep it" trademark law defense here. Yes, a company has to defend its trademark in order to keep the trademark under US intellectual property law. However:
  1. They own the trademark to "Renegade Game Studios" not simply the word "Renegade" on its own. They have no claims to the trademark for the word "Renegade" even in use in tabletop roleplaying games.
  2. There are over 300 titles on DriveThruRPG using the word "Renegade" in their titles, including the old FASA game Renegade Legions, the Onyx Path game Deviant: The Renegades, and the Mongoose "Renegade" line of class guides from the 3.x OGL era. I don't see Renegade Game Studio trying to bite the hand that feeds them by demanding Paradox pull down the old Renegades RPG from White Wolf.
  3. They aren't threatening to sue. Because that would mean having to prove their claims in court. Instead, they're whining to Kickstarter's trademark enforcement team as an end-around on the legal system.
There's a reason I brought up the Games Workshop "Space Marines" thing because this is precisely what they tried to do - appeal directly to Amazon to get a book from an independent self-published author pulled from sale. This has nothing to do with enforcing trademark as required under the law because, if that's what they wanted to do, they'd go to court not complain to Kickstarter.
You are one-hundred percent correct and I'm glad you clarified my comments.

I wonder why the selective attempt at enforcement. As was said, I'd never heard of the game Renegade City. Guessing by the font, my guess is it's an attempt to make a GTA roleplaying game, essentially.
 

Abstruse

Legend
You are one-hundred percent correct and I'm glad you clarified my comments.

I wonder why the selective attempt at enforcement. As was said, I'd never heard of the game Renegade City. Guessing by the font, my guess is it's an attempt to make a GTA roleplaying game, essentially.
Yeah, if you showed me that game and said it was in trouble for trademark, I would've assumed Rockstar was the one with an issue. I am not a lawyer, but that trade dress is a bit on the nose for an unlicensed product.

It never would have dawned on me to go "Renegade City...take away the 'city'...add a 'Game Studio' to the end...is this from the Vampire RPG people?"

I honestly cannot see what Renegade Game Studio expects to get out of this other than a crapload of bad press. "Yes! We stopped a company from using a word that's in the dictionary! Next...we use this as precedent to sue Microsoft because 'Xbox Game Pass' as the word 'Game' in it and we'll be rich!"
 


Did anyone learn anything from the OGL fiasco? The court of public opinion is often more important to the bottom line than the actual court.

The only time people want to see a big company destroy a little guy is when it's Because the little guy is using trade dress to sell racist stuff like the takedown of Nu TSR.

Just because it might be legal doesn't mean you need to sue.

Let's all be Netural Good not Lawful Netural or Lawful Evil.
 

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