Braben wants lessons learnt from Langdell row

Braben wants lessons learnt from Langdell row

By Rob Crossley

December 17th 2010 at 10:07AM

EA deserves praise for dismantling the â??trademark trollâ??, but what took so long?

The games industry mustn’t forget its own shortcomings in the recent high-profile trademark war against disgraced developer Tim Langdell, a veteran developer has said.

David Braben, the widely-respected Elite co-writer, said that “as an industry, we failed in the Langdell case”.

In a new Develop Blog, Braben claimed Langdell had his way for too long before being suitably challenged by the games industry.

“Perhaps Langdell’s spiritual successor is at work already?” he said.

“If so, let’s shine a spotlight on it too, and state our positions publicly. This way, the next prospective troll, with the next silly patent or overly broad claims for their trademark, might just think twice. We will all benefit in the long run.”

Tim Langdell was until recently the owner of controversial trademark protections of the word ‘edge’, which he leveraged in several legal fights with other game developers.

His final attempt was an assault on EA DICE, the developer of the ambitious first-person game Mirror’s Edge, which he lost in spectacular fashion.

“I am delighted that EA stood their ground over Mirror’s Edge and have made a conspicuous example of him,” Braben said.

“Hopefully other trademark and patent trolls will now think twice”.

But Braben, the founder of UK indie Frontier Developments, said the trademark litigation process itself is still open to abuse.

“The troll looks at techniques, obvious to those already in the industry, and frequently already in use, and gets a patent on them, drawn as broadly as possible but keeps quiet until it is about to expire, drafting it in such a way that a search will not pick it up,” he said.

“The reason such ‘trademark trolls’ exist is the legal process to defend against them is very expensive, both in legal costs, but more importantly in time – if it stops sales of your game, it can threaten your very livelihood, and so the damages claimed are often tuned to be a little less costly than fighting would be.

“When a large corporation like EA stands and fights it benefits us all, and we should applaud them for it.”

The full Develop Blog piece can be read here.