Games Workshop is famous for their efforts in protecting their intellectual property. My favourite is still their stance on ‘owning’ the term Space Marine, despite evidence of the name being in common use many years before Warhammer 40K. With this belief, Games Workshop lodged a trademark infringement complaint with Amazon about a series of books by M.C.A. Hogarth about ‘Spots the Space Marine’. Amazon complied with the complaint and pulled the series. Public outcry on the bullying tactics of Games Workshop got Amazon to reinstate the series, but in a lot of ways, Games Workshop won. There was tremendous publicity about Space Marines, and the formal message sent that Space Marines where their property and they have expensive lawyers.
So with this little bit of background, today’s little bit of interest is about a Kickstarter project. This one is for a single miniature (well, if 95mm is still a miniature?) for Leon Johnson, The Patriarch. It’s a nice sculpt to be sure, not one I will probably back, but one I will probably keep an eye on. I will be keeping an eye on it for the Games Workshop response. I can’t see anywhere on the Kickstarter project ‘approved by Games Workshop’ or the like, and this is important.
The Patriarch model is an obvious reference to the Warhammer 40K figure and Dark Angels Primarch (genetic founder) Lion El’Jonson. According to the Games Workshop Intellectual Property Policy and while I am not a lawyer, this project seems to come dangerously close to hitting a few of these rules. The miniature isn’t intended for tabletop combat at the scale of it, but it is intended as a collector’s piece and for commercial gain.
The guidelines do state that your works should be clearly marked as unofficial, but the slight renaming from Lion to Leon (which is still just French for Lion) and obvious backstory parallels seem to be inviting trouble from the Games Workshop legal department.
While I wish Txarli Factory well and the project is already funded, after seeing Games Workshop go hard for less in the past, it will be interesting to see their response if any. Games Workshop has worked hard in recent years to improve their public image, and with a lot of new projects coming to light both in-house and in partnership with WizKids, this could be an interesting gauge to see how much the company has changed.