'Last-gasp settlement' in Bethesda Interplay case

'Last-gasp settlement' in Bethesda Interplay case

By Rob Crossley

January 3rd 2012 at 1:41PM

Anonymous courtroom source says agreement has been reached regarding the Fallout MMO

A bitterly fought lawsuit regarding the Fallout trademark has been “settled” by both parties, according to an unverified account of court proceedings.

Publishers Interplay and Bethesda are said to have reached an eleventh-hour agreement during a recess on the day of a “tense” trial, which took place last month at the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

Legal data seen by Develop does not yet confirm any settlement, though this could be due to delays in court case tracking systems. Neither Interplay nor Bethesda has released a notice on the matter, though the holiday season may have postponed both parties drafting a public announcement.

The alleged settlement “took place the day of the trial”, according to fan site Duck and Cover, which has been thorough and accurate in its coverage of the case.

One forum post by the site’s administrator said the details of the settlement will be announced in January.

“But we can report that on the day of trial, the atmosphere in the court room was tense until the judge recessed,” the post continued.

“This recess was extended, and then they recessed for lunch. After the lunch recess, the court room was locked to everyone except attorneys and client. When our source asked why this was the case, our source was told it was because they were working out a settlement. The following day, another source called the court reporter to ask what the next hearing schedule for the case was - this source was told there was no schedule as a settlement had been reached.”

With much tenacity Bethesda has taken many angles to seal courtroom victory over Interplay. Its dispute stems from a disagreement in 2007, when the group made a deal with fellow publisher Interplay.

Interplay hired Masthead to build an MMO based on the Fallout brand, claiming it had been granted the licence to do so. Bethesda, which owns the Fallout IP, claims that wider terms of the licensing agreement have been broken.

It is not certain that, at the time of going to press, any of these complaints have been reconsidered as part of the alleged settlement.

If an agreement has been made, it is not clear what the practical outcome is with regards to the Fallout MMO.

Interplay recently warned investors that the company is on the brink of collapse unless present financial conditions change.

Bethesda first sued Interplay in 2009, before months later a US District Court judge denied its motion for a preliminary injunction.

Bethesda then put a new angle on its complaint. In its second suit, it said Interplay and Masthead could not use assets, characters or narrative belonging to the Fallout IP.

But Judge Walter now claims Bethesda “has not demonstrated that it will be irreparably prejudiced” if the restraining order is enacted.

Bethesda has not shown it is without fault in creating the dispute, the judge ruled at the time.