TSR Wizards of the Coast Requests Injunction Against NuTSR

The legal team for Wizards of the Coast filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against TSR LLC, Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum LLC, and Justin LaNasa on September 8, 2022 to prevent the publication of Star Frontiers New Genesis.

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The motion seeks the court to issue an order preventing LaNasa or his companies from “publishing, distributing, or otherwise making available Star Frontiers New Genesis or any iteration of the game using the Marks”. Wizards of the Coast’s lawyers claim that the company would suffer irreparable harm to their reputation due to customer confusion and that Wizards of the Coast may become associated with the playtest document content containing "racism and transphobia".

Accompanying the motion were two declarations of support with further corroborating evidence. The first came from Elizabeth M. Schuh, Director of Publishing and Licensing for Dungeons & Dragons for Wizards of the Coast, supporting the claims of Wizards of the Coast’s investment in the TSR brand, tracing the history through the company’s acquisition in 1997 to the release of Star Frontiers products on OneBookShelf (parent company of DriveThruRPG and Dungeonmasters Guild) and through to the purchase of D&D Beyond.

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Schuh’s declaration continues, stating that from the original filing of the countersuit until the end of July 2022, “Wizards believed TSR LLC was not actually selling or distributing any games bearing the Marks” and that Wizards of the Coast is concerned about the problematic content contained in the playtest document.

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The declaration concludes with Schuh stating Wizards of the Coast’s philosophy of “an inclusive culture for gaming, including for its Dungeons & Dragons products”, including copies of the June 2020 blog post stating a change to the depiction of race in D&D, the October 2021 Sage Advice column by Jeremy Crawford on stat block and race changes starting with The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, and the recent September 2 apology for the Hadozee race in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. A September 9 article from the website Study Breaks titled “The Dungeons & Dragons Community Is Committing to Diversity” is used to support the claim that “The gaming community, through press and player forums, has noted Wizards’ efforts”.

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The second declaration is from Lauren Rainwater, a partner at the legal firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP representing Wizards of the Coast in the suit. This declaration focuses on brand confusion with screenshots from the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum’s “Out of Stock” store page for Star Frontiers New Genesis along with posts from EN World and Reddit documenting users posting their confusion at news about the game’s offensive content.

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The exhibits from Rainwater’s filing include documentation of the trademark registration made by LaNasa, further screenshots of TSR-branded products for sale in the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum webstore, social media advertisements for Star Frontiers New Genesis, a copy of a TechRaptor story from July 2022 titled “TSR’s Star Frontiers New Genesis Playtest Contains Racist Content”, and screenshots of the Twitter thread by user @NoHateInGaming documenting material from the leaked playtest document.

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And to support the claims of offensive content contained in the Star Frontiers New Genesis playtest document, Exhibit E of Lakewater’s declaration is a copy of several pages from the playtest document obtained via subpoena from Don Semora of Wizard Tower Games. Multiple sections of the document are highlighted featuring the more obviously offensive statements, the majority of which were previously detailed in the above-linked thread by @NoHateInGaming.

If granted, the injunction will only prevent LaNasa, TSR LLC, and Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum from publishing Star Frontiers New Genesis or any other products using the “Star Frontiers” name, but it will not cover other “infringing activities” such as the use of the TSR trademark. The court precedent (one of thirty cited in the motion) Price v. City of Stockton requires that the injunction request have a narrow scope to prevent an injunction from sweeping too broadly when weighing the balance of hardships. As Wizards of the Coast is claiming the damage will be done to the company’s brand reputation due to the content in Star Frontiers New Genesis, the injunction is solely to prevent its release.

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The motion is noted for consideration for September 30, 2022 (the date the court will consider the motion) with oral argument requested. And for those who need a refresher on this entire TSR business, Morrus assembled "The Full & Glorious History of NuTSR" with a timeline of events.
 

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott

Abstruse

Legend
It is beyond me how, in an era where every silly IP that was famous for 10 minutes in the '80 is worth a Hollywood reboot, Hasbro managed to let Tsr and all those other tradermarks lapse.
Trademark registration gets you more legal protections, but is not required. Also, registering a trademark doesn't guarantee you get it - you have to actively use the trademark in commerce. Like I said either here or on the big TSR thread or possibly in the News Digest column (or maybe it was Twitter? I read 100+ pages of legal documents instead of taking a nap, my brain is mush), trademarks will be denied if there's no commercial use. This happens a lot when you read stories about celebrities trying to register trademarks of their or their children's names to "protect" them. They always get denied because there's no intent to use them for commercial purposes.
 

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WotC may slip up once in a while and let something out that should have been caught in editing, or sooner, but "companies" like NuTSR can give the whole industry a bad name. Sadly, losing this case will not give LaNasa and crew a thought-adjustment and stop them from being racists and bigots.
 

Abstruse

Legend
And also, isn't the whole entire purpose of a trademark to protect us, the consumers, from being duped into purchasing knock-offs and sham versions of real products?
Exactly. And it's actually enforced that way. Granted, that also helps companies, but the primary purpose is to protect consumers from predatory individuals and companies from creating market confusion. It's why WotC spent half of one of the filings pointing out the people confused when they read stories about "TSR" and Star Frontiers New Genesis thinking it was WotC resurrecting the brand and/or the actual Star Frontiers.
 


Argyle King

Legend
It's a little bit surreal to see lawyers not wanting product confusion to imply racism at the same time as a WoTC apology for releasing a product which contained racism.

Apparently, they don't want somebody else's racism to be confused for the racism that actually was printed.

Maybe I shouldn't laugh, but the timing of recent events is a touch amusing when taking a step back and seeing everything at once.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It's a little bit surreal to see lawyers not wanting product confusion to imply racism at the same time as a WoTC apology for releasing a product which contained racism.

Apparently, they don't want somebody else's racism to be confused for the racism that actually was printed.

Maybe I shouldn't laugh, but the timing of recent events is a touch amusing when taking a step back and seeing everything at once.
You probably saw the WotC apology, then. It looks quite different from the apology sent by NuTSR.
 

Abstruse

Legend
It's a little bit surreal to see lawyers not wanting product confusion to imply racism at the same time as a WoTC apology for releasing a product which contained racism.

Apparently, they don't want somebody else's racism to be confused for the racism that actually was printed.

Maybe I shouldn't laugh, but the timing of recent events is a touch amusing when taking a step back and seeing everything at once.
They cited their apology for the Hadozee in the filing as evidence that being perceived as producing racist content would cause reputational damage. There is a big difference between doing something racist through not doing proper diligence (ie having a BIPOC in the room in a position to speak up and be listened to) and intentionally including that sort of nonsense. But yeah, the timing is ironic.
 

Argyle King

Legend
They cited their apology for the Hadozee in the filing as evidence that being perceived as producing racist content would cause reputational damage. There is a big difference between doing something racist through not doing proper diligence (ie having a BIPOC in the room in a position to speak up and be listened to) and intentionally including that sort of nonsense. But yeah, the timing is ironic.

I'm aware there's a difference. But, yeah, timing
 





Parmandur

Book-Friend
I remember a recent post criticizing that our complaining on these boards goes unnoticed by WotC - and now their lawyers are using posts from here to gauge community reactions.
It seems we do have an effect on the industry - and hopefully in the case against NuTSR, a positive effect.
Their lawyers might read here, the designers...probably not.
 




Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Why are we feeling bad for rooting on the Corporate lawyers?
Because corporations are bad.
Do we want a plucky young lawyer to fight this? No, we want an army of Goliaths stomping and extirpating NuTSR. The cause is just and we want the best methods possible. Legal scorched earth. I want LaNasa's children's children feel the shame.
Sure, obviously we want NuTSR’a defeat to be as crushing as possible. But “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is still a weird position to be in when the enemy of your enemy is a much more powerful enemy but whom in this instance is less overtly antagonistic.
 

JThursby

Adventurer
Well, I was reading along and thinking "this isn't so bad..." Then I got to this part:
Wow. This stuff is so insanely insensitive it almost sounds like some kind of parody. Who in their right mind would put this into print thinking "yes, these are statements that strangers on the internet will find agreeable enough." It's no wonder WotC wants to make it clear they have nothing to do with this stuff, that's just reasonable brand management.
Sure, obviously we want NuTSR’a defeat to be as crushing as possible. But “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is still a weird position to be in when the enemy of your enemy is a much more powerful enemy but whom in this instance is less overtly antagonistic.
Luckily the societal stakes of "trading card and role playing game company" are very low. It's not like WotC can do anything to actually hurt people, they're not Monsanto or BP or something. The worst WotC can do is put out a bad product that people don't like in the entertainment sector.
 


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