In an unprecedented show of support, members of the game development community from several countries have come together in support of French independent game developer Mobigame. Mobigame is involved in a legal dispute with former publisher Tim Langdell, who conducts business as Edge Games. Langdell has a history of confrontation with game companies using the word "Edge" in games titles.
Dispute Between Langdell and Mobigame
On July 15th, Langdell forced iPhone platform-holder Apple's hand to block the sale of the award winning and triple IGF award nominated iPhone game 'EDGE'. Langdell's claim was that the product infringes on his trademark of the word 'Edge'. Initially, when Mobigame voluntarily removed the game from the store they were receiving several emails per day from Langdell; some of which even went as far as threatening to sue the owner of Mobigame (David Papazian) personally, stating that it could cost David "millions of dollars".
Mobigame actually own the trademark 'EDGE' in France, and the registration is on-going in Europe. Despite this, Langdell threatened to sue unless they remove the game from the AppStore entirely, even in the regions where Mobigame own the trademark. On May 14th, Mobigame proposed renaming the game to 'EDGY' for the UK and the US market, stating that their trademarks could co-exist since Mobigame will have the trademark in Europe, and they would rename the game to 'EDGY' for the UK & US markets. Langdell refused to accept this, and on May 16th he applied for the trademark 'EDGY' in the US.
As a small company, without access to substantial legal resources, Mobigame was keen to avoid a protracted legal dispute, and have tried on many occasions to reach an amicable solution. Unfortunately, negotiation with Langdell proved fruitless. Mobigame is currently evaluating their options, but are denied the income they were depending on from iPhone game sales.
Langdell's History of Threats and Litigation
Langdell has a history of similar tactics with other small companies. He lists credits for games containing the word 'Edge' on his website, and claims credit for their development. In reality his involvement is limited to demanding money for the use of the word 'Edge'. His legal relationship with renowned British development magazine EDGE is unclear, but claims that he "spawned" the publication were recently removed from his website. Even after the outrage among the international community of developers began to rise, Langdell applied for a trademark on the phrase, 'Edge of Twilight', days after Australian company, Fuzzyeyes Studio announced they were soon launching a game of that name.
Game developers around the world have taken a dim view of Langdell's actions, as trademark disputes have a far more profound effect on small game companies with limited resources for legal support.
To try to combat this, members of The Chaos Engine, a game industry professionals' think-tank/forum have started a fund to aid Mobigame in what could be a lengthy legal dispute, during which time sales of EDGE are being restricted. There is also a Facebook group set-up to show support for Mobigame and EDGE.
"We think it's important that Langdell not be allowed to bludgeon small companies with esoteric trademark laws," says Paddy Sinclair, CEO of Proper Games Ltd. "Games may be a fun and light-hearted product, but this is still a professional industry. There's no room for schoolyard tactics to extort money and claim unearned fame."
Finding no support from their professional association, the IGDA, developers have taken the case into their own hands - organizing creative ways to help Mobigame with their plight. They hope to see industry luminaries speak out, and are galvanizing all their supporters to stand up against this unethical use of trademark law.
"Langdell needs to be stopped and anyone else who thinks it's okay to take advantage of small game companies needs to know we're not isolated, easy targets," said Yacine Salmi, an industry veteran and current IGDA member.
In further controversy, Tim Langdell is also a board member of game development advocate body International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Here he has a hand in guiding the professional association's policies on aiding small game companies and improving the industry for all developers. So far the IGDA has officially taken no action and made only a short statement saying they don't see a need to act.
"Just because Langdell managed to bluff his way onto the IGDA board doesn't mean we as members support his unethical strategies, and we're doing what we can to have him removed," said Corvus Elrod of Zakelro Studios, an IGDA member and part of a small game company himself. He has started a petition for IGDA members to sign, calling for a special meeting where Langdell could be voted out of the IGDA board.
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The Chaos Engine is a virtual community of game developers from around the globe. Launched in 2003, it has grown to include 7,000 game developers representing views from across the industry.