back to article British games company says it owns the idea of space marines

British company Games Workshop, well known for producing tabletop wargames and other products set in various fantasy universes, has claimed that it owns the idea of future space marines and that nobody can write books featuring astro-bootnecks* without its consent. Last December the company succeeded in getting the novel Spots …


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  1. Christoph

    Another bit that isn't original

    "many distinctive features which Games Workshop might justifiably claim as their own ... they are routinely surgically modified "

    Were they routinely surgically modified before 1986, when Timothy Zahn's first "Cobra" book was published?

    So when are they going to stop anyone writing about games or workshops?

    1. Pooka

      Re: Another bit that isn't original

      Tough call - it was certainly mentioned in Rogue Trader (first edition 40k), but I don't know about appearances in White Dwarf around that time.... Rogue Trader was '87....

    2. Bob Vistakin

      Re: Another bit that isn't original

      Why not just look for anyone who made Games in a Workshop prior to the creation of these Apple wannabees and do them for infringement of their term?

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Another bit that isn't original was in 1979. Okay, they were cyborg space warriors not specifically called marines, and as far as I remember, they fought by standing in a long line IN SPACE facing the enemy. But, still.

    4. Andrew Moore

      Re: Another bit that isn't original

      I'm off to trademark "Thrud the Barbarian"

      1. Great Bu

        I'm off to trademark "Thrud the Barbarian"

        I think you will find that Carl Critchlow has the trademark for Thrud.....

    5. robin48gx

      Re: Another bit that isn't original

      Starship troopers was 1958.... What rubbish to start yelling about IP on the concept of a space marine.

  2. Steve Crook

    Morons, dickheads and anything else you can thing of...

    It goes to show that it's not just the fruity firm that have a hunger for this sort of conflict. I wonder if there's a virus that's going round infecting corporate types and causing their egos to swell even further to the point where they really believe this sort of shit. I assume they'll eventually drop it and say that it was all a big mistake and that amazon over-reacted. Perhaps Games Workshop will respond and explain their behaviour? No? I thought not...


      Re: Morons, dickheads and anything else you can thing of...

      The problem is the ill-defined and artificial nature of so-called "intellectual property".

      Unlike real property, where it's very obvious when something is stolen or appropriated, 'IP' is a man-made construct whose boundaries are limited only by thought and definition.

      As a result, what you get is the inevitable greed of certain people trying to claim ownership of as much as they possibly can.

      The things covered by IP - cultural expression (generally) of ideas - are by nature fluid, porous and readily profligate; little different to DNA - going wherever they want and joining with all sorts of other DNA to make new things.

      Copyright is supposed to be limited inn scope, but greedy, vested interests have for decades pushed for its expansion. The same with patents and trademarks - because they entail monopoly of exploitation and self-enrichment.

      And the guardians of the 'limited times' and scope of these monopolies are sackless and easily swayed.

      Where there is only man's word for a limitation, and man can be corrupted, the scope is actually limitless. And so it is with 'IP'.

      I dare say it will always be so, though I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: The problem is the ill-defined...

        No, the problem is the LAWYERS who keep trying to sail Supertankers through those holes to rake in untold sums of cash.

  3. Christoph

    More prior art

    I have a tape recorded in 1982 containing a song "Outerspace Marines"

    1. Beth (the 'Mac' is silent)

      Space Marines

      There are two from that era:

      "Space Heroes and Other Fools", by Julia Ecklar. The relevant verse is:

      "Do you wanna be a hero in the sky?

      Do you wanna be a hero in the sky?

      High adventure, higher pay,

      Join the Space Marines today!

      You can go and be a hero in the sky!"

      And one by Jeff Dunteman, to the tune of the [US] Marines' Hymn:

      "From the pits of Aldebaran IX

      To the webs of Sigma Grex,

      We will make a better man of you

      Irregardless of your sex.

      Though the Klingons kick sand in your face,

      You will know you're worth your beans

      When you come and sell your soul to us

      In the Outer Space Marines!"

      1. Christoph

        Re: Space Marines

        The second is the one I was thinking of. The Ecklar tape is dated 1983 -.the song "Space Hero" is credited to 'Fish', though I can't track down when she wrote it.

  4. ukgnome

    I can understand Warhammer having rights to 40k as well as the blue uniform that their space marines have. But laying claims to "space marines" as IP is just a bit silly.

    Lets put it this way, in 1987 Warhammer created Warhammer 40K, how much of the space marine set was lifted from a 1986 film called aliens? The only difference I see is that Aliens called their space soldiers "colonial marines"

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      @ukgnome - Laying Claims much of the space marine set was lifted from a 1986 film called aliens?

      Indeed! While I prefer other sources that Wikipedia, I think their page on GW's Space Hulk game has it spot on:

      "The game is set in their Warhammer 40,000 universe and draws a certain degree of inspiration from the Alien movies."

    2. Eddy Ito

      Too true

      Even if they wanted to trademark "space marines" wouldn't a little game called Doom have been their first target way back in `93? Sorry, I'm thinking this horse has bolted long ago and the hinges on the barn door have rusted off anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too true

        Horse bolted? they never even had a horse! They're pointing at an empty stable saying "those guys stole my horse!"

        Send in the Marines to sort these fools out!

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Send in the Marines to sort these fools out!

          No need for the plural, just one should do.

          And I expect he won't be using the full force of his hand. A thumb should suffice.

    3. Great Bu


      Even at the time I remember that the WH40k space marines were seeen (by myself and many of my tabletop rolplaying friends) as derivative of a number of other SF RPG's, in particular GDW's Traveller (of 1979 vintage) which had Imperial Marines, battle suited soldiers of a space empire - themselves essentially derivative of Star Wars storm troopers........

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Derivative

        I think in some sense most of what's been published since Hugo Gernsback was running his pulps back in the 30s is derivative of what was done back then. Sometimes the derivatives have been better written or more interesting, but they covered most of it back then. Particularly space marines.

    4. Stacy


      Were they not "inspired" just a little bit for the Genestealers by the Aliens themselves?

      There is certainly a resemblance...

      1. Can't think of anything witty...

        Re: Aliens...

        Agreed with that. I remember when they launched the Tyranid army (was quite into WH40K at that point) and everyone noticed the resemblence between them and the H. R. Geiger's aliens.

        (See this link: )

        Being able to inceinerate large swathes of them from a tank-mounted flamethrower in a "This one's for Bishop you Bas****s" way was great fun.


        well, it was for me at the time.


        i didn't get out much...


    5. John 62

      @ukgnome: blue uniforms?

      Typical Ultramarine arrogance! There are many other chapters, each with its own armour colouring and regalia. One for each primarch (and several more created since the Heresy) .

  5. hplasm


    Games W need to watch out- there were lots of miniature figures about before they were for one thing- nearly as many as stories with Space Marines in them.

    I would also suggest Amazon get a grip.

    Bloody Cheek

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outrageous!

      Sure, but how many miniature companies have already started producing figures that are based on GW's work?

      Yes, it has been happening and has caused GW a great deal of trouble. I believe they've recently lost a case in the States where it happened, too - someone produced a figure for a unit they'd listed and described in their books, and now GW can't produce their version of that figure.

      GW has been quite relaxed about fan work - Turn Signals on a Landraider, for example, but they've had to be firm with anyone trying to turn a profit on their work (when TSoaLR wanted to sell copies, for example). Now they're taking a harder line to protect their business and are appearing more aggressive. Problem is they can't afford to stop and check every possible infringement: They have to act quickly before someone can claim the IP and undermine GW's business.

      So yes, they've made a mistake. It's not good for the author: They're innocent. GW does need to apologize and step down from this case, but they also have to maintain a strong front to actual infringement because there are people out there ripping off their work.

      I'd say this is a 'watch this space' event more than a 'GW is turning into Apple' event. Or at least I hope it is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Now they're taking a harder line to protect their business...

        If they shut this down on Amazon, they've already lost control of their company to the Lawyers.

        Once upon a time I worked with a US non-profit. Some twits decided to start a profit oriented group with a name that was too close to our trademarked name. So we asked them nicely to change the name. They didn't so we had to call in the lawyers. It was hugely expensive, but we did manage to protect our trademark. Next thing we were working to registering the trademark in all kinds of places. I'm no longer with the group, but last I heard the lawyers have them embroiled in a trademark dispute with one of the recently admitted EU countries. I see about zero chance that someone from that country would actually confuse the two outfits, but because of the potential ramifications, more money down the tubes. Sounds like the same thing is happening at GW.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought 2012

    was the Year of the Lawyer. Looks like we have barely scratched the surface of that pustule.

    1. C Yates


      It's just that 2013 is the year of the twat :)

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Re: Nah!

        How can it be? Jobs is already dead!

    2. Code Monkey

      Re: I thought 2012

      You're right. 2012 was the the year of the lawyer. As was 2011, 2011, etc. and so on.

    3. Mayhem

      Re: I thought 2012

      It was. Turns out 2013 is the year of the Countersuit, soon to be followed by the years of the Appeal.

      The process is unlikely to finish until Judgement day.

  7. tkioz

    Utterly ridiculous. I can not believe they think they'll get away with this bollocks, all the more proof that lawyers are the ones who are proving the case for IP reform with their over-reaching money grubbing ways.

    I've been a fan of games workshop for over twenty years, but at this moment I want nothing to do with the company. Disgusting.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So even this is owned by GW?:

    They must be following the Apple business plan. Grab something "generic" and call it yours. As a former US Marine, I'm wondering if sometime down the timeline if the name will have to be changed to something like "maritime fighter"?

  9. M Gale

    How much for a 4 inch high plastic model?

    But, but, but.. it's a titan!

    On top of the White Metal thing, this does not surprise me at all.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Figured it was only a matter of time...

    ...before Jerks Wormshop pulled another fast one. Their licence to print and publish GDW Traveller material some 20 years back plus was abruptly revoked, amongst much speculation in the RPG community (some of it spot on the money, but I can't comment on that as it was never taken to court by GDW, sadly); since then, once they found they had a money-maker in Warhammer 40K, they've made a habit of producing sets of rules and figures that require adherents (or is that disciples?) to buy more of their stuff to play the game; frankly, it was only a matter of time before they tried to re-write history in their image.

    I've not used them since they had their GDW licence revoked - I saw the writing on the wall. They're no better than an ambulance chaser, in my view.

    I hope and trust, therefore, that Amazon pound their arses back into the stone age with this load of bovine excrement that they're peddling.

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: Figured it was only a matter of time...

      Ah. I was unaware that GW and GDW had already crossed paths. This makes things even better.

  11. dotdavid


    I always thought space marines, lacking any marine environment in the depths of space, would probably be more accurately named "spaces" or something.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Marines?


      The "U.N. Spacy" is of course the armed space of the UN in Macross.

      Can't remember whether the grunts were called Spacies...

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Marines?

        Were any of them called Kevin?

        1. Francis Boyle

          Re: Marines?

          They were all called Kevin, just to keep it clear.

  12. James O'Shea


    I seem to recall a game named 'Traveller', from _well_ before 1987, which featured, among other things, space marines. Indeed, the owners of that game concept, Game Designers Workshop, sued, and won, someone for actually-for-real infringing on their rights in 1982. (The defendants made Traveller into a video game. They didn't change the names of important features or anything else important. They also didn't pay GDW one cent... until the lawsuit arrived.) Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if GDW sued GW for liberating not merely the space marines concept, but the name of the company itself? Has anyone passed the word over to GDW or its successors? Wouldn't it be fun to watch the carnage if someone did?

    Nuke, 'cause, well, cry havoc and let slip the lawyers of war!

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Idiocy

      There was a game set in the Traveller universe called 'Snapshot' which was basically combat on a spaceship.

      If that wasn't space marines then I am not sure what is.

  13. djbane

    GW are notoriously harsh when it comes to this sort of thing and what they see as IP infringement.

    According to their website Space Marine is a trademark of theirs and in this they have seen fit to bring down the hammer. Maybe they were worried about confusion with their own book range. . Its odd though since a quick look on amazon and there are other books with the name Space Marine in the title

    1. Greg J Preece

      If they actually have a trademark on "Space Marine" (did the article address this?) then surely they also have a point? I mean, for all the talk of rip-offs in this thread, GW themselves have been ripped off before. *Cough* Warcraft *Hack*

      1. Psyx

        "If they actually have a trademark on "Space Marine" (did the article address this?) then surely they also have a point?"

        Not until it's tested in court. Getting a Trademark doesn't really seal the right until it's actually tested and tried under the rigours of a Judge.

        1. Greg J Preece

          Not until it's tested in court. Getting a Trademark doesn't really seal the right until it's actually tested and tried under the rigours of a Judge.

          Then given the requirement for them to protect the trademark, they are forced to take this current action, right? Who they went after doesn't matter (except to you lot, who I guarantee wouldn't be bleating so much if this wasn't a little indie guy). The principle is the same.

          1. RealBigAl

            Except they picked on someone who can't defend themselves. Didn't see them go after the makers of the Starship Troopers movies who have the financial clout to get GW laughed out of court for example.

          2. NelC

            You say that as though protecting or protesting on behalf of the little guy was a bad thing. After all, the big guys can look after themselves.

        2. Simon Westerby 1

          The trademark in question is a US Trademark in the area of games... Not Books/eBooks

          GW are trying to assert the trademark in that area (ebooks)- which is really quite sad.

          The Paper print version of the book is still (or was yesterday) available on amazon for sail.

      2. Scott 62

        Can you imagine GW trying to sue Blizzard?

        Blizzard probably spend more on lawyers in a month than GW make in profit a year.


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