M.C.A. Hogarth’s science fiction novel, “Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler,” was taken down from Amazon due to Games Workshop’s claim of trademark infringement over the term “space marine.” With few resources at her disposal, Hogarth turned to the Internet:
In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entrée into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term “space marine” in all formats. If they choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that’s been a part of its canon since its inception. Space marines were around long before Games Workshop. But if GW has their way, in the future, no one will be able to use the term “space marine” without it referring to the space marines of the Warhammer 40K universe.
Games Workshop owns the rights to the trademark “space marine,” but not when it applies to ebooks in the U.S.:
IC 028. US 022. G & S: board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith. FIRST USE: 19870900. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19871000
The European trademark however includes Class 16:
Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; artists’ materials; paint brushes; typewriters and office requisites (except furniture); instructional and teaching material (except apparatus); plastic materials for packaging (not included in other classes); playing cards; printers’ type; printing blocks
Games Workshop brought their complaint to Amazon Kindle Publishing UK based on this class in the European trademark, which caused Amazon Kindle Publishing (in the US) to block the e-book in all the countries it was being sold. The paperback was not affected at the time of the complaint and has never been blocked from sale.
The term “space marine” has been in use since 1965, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer. Wikipedia describes the history of the term:
The earliest known use of the term “space marine” was by Bob Olsen in his short story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932), a light-hearted work whose title is a play on the song “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines”, and in which the protagonists were marines of the “Earth Republic Space Navy” on mission to rescue celebrity twins from aliens on Titan.
To add insult to injury, some of the proceeds of “Spots the Space Marine” were donated to the Wounded Warrior project, which means Games Workshop didn’t just harm Hogarth’s income, but donations to our wounded American servicemen and -women:
The e-book edition of Spots is where most of the money comes from, and where most of my readers first encounter the story. I don’t appreciate having to defend my use of “space marine” to describe a cookie-baking mom no one could mistake for something out of Warhammer 40K.
An Internet outcry seems to have changed Amazon’s mind. The book is back up:
My WordPress site has had almost 50,000 hits in 24 hours. The post has gotten retweets from luminaries I’ve admired all my life and been written up in at least fifteen different venues, and those are only the ones I know about (I’ve started tracking them here; feel free to add yours!). Hundreds of people have left me encouraging comments or sent me warm personal emails. When Neil Gaiman retweeted the post I put my head down on my desk and cried. I am deeply moved by your support, and very grateful.
Hogarth is in discussion with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to determine her next steps.
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