Saturday, October 18, 2014

When a Chapter's House Closes

The story of Chaptehouse and GW continues.  If you haven't heard, Chapterhouse's assets have been frozen due to a court order.  This is a continuation of them and GWs long fight and looks to be ending up going against Chapterhouse.  Now I'm sure there are a lot of opinions on this, but lets be clear, a court made this decision against them, and not for bad reasons.
GW may be an outright dick when it comes to their legal actions, but in some ways for good reasons.  How many knock off companies exist to sell "sci fi" miniatures with striking similarities to 40k.  And many of these companies don't have a game, or have recently put one out after selling models for a while.  Mantic has been around and has certainly some models that work for 40k, they have been recently getting into actual games now, but till recently little more than a free to download ruleset, with minimal support.  They were at least smart enough to not directly infringe.

Chapter house took a risk, plain and simple.  They made money off of GWs IP, and made no secret about it.  Its a dangerous risk to take, and the dice are not rolling well for them.  Personally I have little sympathy.  They chose to directly make products for 40k, not for "sci fi" miniatures, 40k.  There is a reason that trademarks and copyright laws exist, and part of it is for this reason.  They violated them, maybe not with everything they did, but they certainly did violate them.  And its not going well.

I don't wish ill will on them, but when you stake your lively hood on someone else's IP, thats a hard gamble to take.  Should they have been less blatant, absolutely.  Other companies have been very successful in doing so, with some branching out on their own now and brining their own games to the table.  Chapterhouse tried to answer a need for bits for models that was hard to come by or simply didn't exist in the GW range.  A good idea, but executed poorly.  Using the IP of 40k was dangerous, and its proving that case.

Now this isn't over, legal warfare is a long one.  They will appeal and likely get their accounts unfrozen.  But how much damage has been done is unclear, and even if they will be allowed to sell a good portion of their products.  Further court battles will be ahead and the outcome of them can change things.  Most likely though Chapterhouse will not come out on top.

The other thing to ask is was this handled right?  In all honestly probably.  A company or person has to defend his IP, if they do not then it can be infringed upon and if you try and go back at a later date, tough luck.  Companies are forced to defend it, or let it be infringed upon.  Could they have worked a deal to let chapter house continue under license, maybe, but then that has a whole host of other issues.  Then they are tied to Chapterhouse, no longer are they they guys, they are part of GW and anything they do affects the company as a whole, good or bad, its the risk of licensing.  Enforcing quality control, accepting produt returns, there is a significant amount of issues that go along with it.  Its not simply, pay GW a fee and go about your business.  It sounds like a good idea, but there is a reason its not done too often, especially in the miniatures.

The reality here is that there is no right or wrong side, good or evil.  There are two groups trying to make money off the same idea, but only one owns that idea.  We will see what happens to Chapterhouse, but I don't see it going too well for them, and I don't have much sympathy. They knew the risks an decided to take them.



  1. I hear that. I'm curious though, do you really see much difference between shoulder pads for 'space marines' as opposed to shoulder pads for 'sci-fi warriors'? Or 'Space Wolf' icons instead of 'Space Vikings'? Is CH's error just using the wrong name?
    Personally I value the aftermarket bits business for the conversion opportunities it offers. I'm not sure how I feel about CH being more blunt about it, as you say, but wonder where it leaves the other provides like Max-mini or Anvil Industries or Scibor.

  2. A big issue is they use GW products to sell there own. Look at their FB page, they blatantly have Tau battle suits and Space marine terminators in photos with their personal items on them. If I make tires lets say, and make a commercial with them on a ferrari and don't get approval from ferrari to do so, you bet I'll be having some issues. This doesn't stop me from making tires for ferrari cars, but there is a line you cannot cross without permission.

    If they just made shoulder pads and only advertised them as such, it would not be an issue, because then it would have to be proven that they were 1)taken from the GW IP, and 2)being made and sold for GW miniatures. They failed to make a distinction, or to simply not market there products for space marines, tau, etc. They have backtracked and changed things somewhat after the lawsuit, but still are using advertising GW products to sell their own without consent.

    1. And the other guys should be fine, they don't blatantly make product only for GW and keep it pretty generally scifi/fantasy, that could be used for 40k/fanasty, but for other games as well.

  3. GW did not get the decision they liked from the courts and are now using this as another avenue. Once Chapter house proves they can indeed pay the settlement everything goes back to normal. Also remember while GW had to pay for their legal council Chapterhouse got it pro bono. In regards to the shoulder pads the courts did find in Chapterhouses favour because Gw can not copyright a size or shape of a product. Also under US law you can not claim infrigment unless you have a prototype. Also why so many of the armybooks GW has releases lately have been slimmed down and everything releases coming soon after words. The example you use is wrong since plenty of after market companies do make model specific car parts. Right done to the year and model number.

    1. It wasn't the making of the part he used as an example, it was using someone else product without permission to sell yours. Companies that make parts for cars market the part as there own and many do actually have deals with manufactures to do so. Generic items like bulbs and tyres are different, as they can fit many different makes and models. CH was using GW products in there adverts, to sale items specifically stated for use with 40k, without GW's approval. That's why they got nailed.

    2. Yeah, you kinda missed the example. Many companies do make car parts for specific make and models, often under license. The issue is not the making of the parts itself, its the use of another companies product to sell their own. If you look at the the rulings for the CH case, they were hit for their blatant use of GW names including using GW itself on their site and in their advertising. They were not hit for making shoulder pads. The assists are most likely frozen as GW wants to ensure that the have the funds to pay them from the original ruling. The court will hear the appeal and go from there.