Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kickstarter Update - HeroQuest 25th Anniversary Edition - Moon Design's Reasoning on the Suspension of the Project

Huge thanks to Psychman, who just left this as a comment on the blogpost here. I think it needs to be shared to a larger audience, and thus this update:

"This is Moon Design's take on the situation:
Background concerning suspension of Gamezone’s Kickstarter campaign

We want to give some background on the dispute surrounding Gamezone’s Kickstarter campaign to launch a remake of the hybrid board game/roleplaying game originally published by Milton Bradley called “Heroquest”.

Last week, Moon Design petitioned Kickstarter to remove the crowdfunding campaign for Gamezone’s “Heroquest” game. “Heroquest” is the registered US trademark of Moon Design and is the name of our “Heroquest” roleplaying game and assorted products. To allow a game using the same name to be promoted in the United States through Kickstarter without a license would be an unacceptable dilution of our brand and create market confusion to our detriment.

The trademark “Heroquest” is registered by Francis Greg Stafford with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Registration Number 4082281) for use in game book manuals. Moon Design Publications LLC has the exclusive license for use of that trademark. For some time now we have been working on creating a board game called “Heroquest” pertaining to the mythology of Glorantha and an updated version of our Heroquest roleplaying game.

The project by Gamezone, a Spanish game company, proposes to remake a role-playing/board game originally produced by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop in 1989. The project calls their game “Heroquest” which is identical to our registered mark and easily confused with it.

Gamezone initially asked us for use of the Heroquest trademark on July 31, 2013. The next day we asked them if they could provide us with a copy of any written agreement with Hasbro to produce a 25th Anniversary Edition of Hasbro’s board game. Gamezone did not provide us with any written confirmation (and as of this date still has not done so). On August 26, 2013, we informed Gamezone by email that we must decline their request.

Despite being explicitly refused permission to use our trademark, Gamezone went ahead and launched this Kickstarter. As a New York State corporation, Kickstarter is subject to US trademark laws and the use of our trademark in the campaign was a violation of those laws.We told Gamezone that they needed to immediately get a licensing agreement from us (which, among other things, would require that they pay us for the rights to the name since it would mean foregoing our opportunity to release our game using our trademark and to compensate us for that lost revenue).

Gamezone did not get back to us within the period we set, and rather than have this end up in litigation (which could also bring in other parties with IP at stake), we asked Kickstarter to suspend the campaign. We then spoke to Gamezone informing them that we had certain non-negotiable demands for any license agreement, among them a statement that Gamezone has explicit permission from Hasbro to make this game based on their IP. Gamezone has assured us that they can get such permission, but until we see confirmation, we cannot responsibly license our trademark to be used in this Kickstarter campaign.

We sympathize with the fans of the Milton Bradley game who enthusiastically supported this project. We strongly support Kickstarter and the revitalization of old games with a loyal following. However, such activities must be done with the consent of the trademark holder and of any other legal owners of the property."

Big sticking point seems to be the lack of a "statement that Gamezone has explicit permission from Hasbro to make this game based on their IP. Gamezone has assured us that they can get such permission, but until we see confirmation, we cannot responsibly license our trademark to be used in this Kickstarter campaign."

I suspect this is damn near close to dead.


  1. It is mind-boggling that it got this far! Not the Moon Design stuff - I could see how a company that *did* hold the rights to the Heroquest boardgame might push ahead without negotiating for a licence from Moon Design. But for a company to do so when it looks like it doesn't hold the rights to publish the boardgame?

    1. At this point there are few rights in the board game, any Design Rights have lapsed; TM lapsed, rules are not protectable. So it's just the specific text of the game rules, which has copyright protection, plus of course art in the original game.

  2. Maybe their goal was to get a successful Kickstarter, then after the project is shut down due to IP violations they could shrug, apologize (if the backers were lucky) then take the money and run. Clever scheme.

    1. Or put another way....I wonder if the backers owe Moon Design for saving them a significant loss of money on a project that was doomed from the start?

  3. If nothing else, this has pushed up the price of old HeroQuest board games. 25 years sure went by fast!

  4. (I teach UK/EU TM law, not US law but have some familiarity with it): This does not really seem to be about Hasbro at all, since the old TM is long lapsed, it's about Moon Design standing on their registered TM for HeroQuest in relation to role-playing games to stop its use in a board game. Under UK/EU law HeroQuest is not a famous mark so no claim for tarnishing/dilution, only for customer confusion as to origin of the game, which could be prevented via a disclaimer. From what I understand of US law the situation is similar and a disclaimer on the Kickstarter should suffice.
    Moon Design have no possible liability to Hasbro that I can see.

    1. Oh, I think I get it - Moon Design are demanding money from Ganezone for a licence, so they would be making money off the game, so if GameZone were liable to Hasbro then Moon Design think they could be too. Although there does not seem to be any particular reason to think GameZone could be liable to Hasbro.
      It looks as if GameZone made a mistake by asking Moon Design for a TM licence, but I can see how this all shook out.

  5. I wonder if those guys also really have a written deal from Capcom? https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1821440755/mega-mantm-the-board-game/description
    It would surprise me..


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