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‘Space marines’ – Games Workshop’s appalling trademark claim on SF trope

Ever heard of “space marines”? If you read Heinlein or Doc Smith, watched “Aliens” or “Avatar” – or many other SF stories from the 1930’s onwards – the term will be familar enough. Yet Games Workshop are claiming it as a trademark as part of their Warhammer 40k universe. They forced Amazon to remove Indie writer M.C.A. Hogarth’s self-published e-book, “Spots the Space Marine”, last December. Read Hogarth’s Blog for her side of the story.

Fortunately, following high profile SF names taking up the case, including a blog by John Scalzi (current president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), Amazon have now reinstated the story. Good – but it should never have been taken down in the first place. GW seem to have attacked an Indie author on the assumption (correct) that she would not have the funds to fight such frivilous nonsense claims rather than attack a mainstream publisher.

“Space marine” is such a common term in SF circles it could be called a trope, a cliche even. What are GW thinking of? What will they try to trademark next?

It is fortunate the SF community is rounding on them over this and defending a writer who used the generic term and did NOT take any GW-specific aspects of the “space marine”. It highlights an issue for indie authors. I suspect we will see more of these spurious claims in the future. Shame on Amazon for how they responded initially.

The story has now made the mainstream press such as the BBC and an excellent article by Lewes Page on The Register which highlights that GW values are ‘Honesty, Courage and Humility’ – all of which are conspicuous in their absence in this case. GW seem to be imitating the “patent trolls” that plague the technology industry.

What do you mean, I can’t use the term “troll” because someone’s trademarked it?

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