Sunday, June 20, 2021

Erik is Prophetic with Regards to Folks not Getting Trademarks


Erik is Prophetic with Regards to Folks not Getting Trademarks
First off, a little background about me: I've got degrees in Library Science, Information Systems Mgmt, Business Management, and HR Management (the last one doesn't have much bearing here, but if I'm listing my education....). I've run a few small companies and have done some small business consulting....enjoyed it actually, but I really dislike trying to "drum up business" so I don't do it much anymore.

Between my education and experience I've learned a lot about forming a company, from a legal compliance aspect, and trademarks/copywrite.

Yeah....Erik called it yesterday, "TSR Trademark Assigned June 16th - Let the Flurry of Pointless Announcements Begin!"

For some reason I was actually surprised when I go this off of Google news:

You'd think ComicBook would get it

Now I read the article and wow, just wow. Now I do realize that actual writers/journalists, unlike bloggers, don't write the titles to their articles, BUT if you read the article (just click the pic above), you might come to the same conclusion as I have that the title accurately depicts the contents of the article.

I'm not hating on Jr. or TSR, but this is clearly NOT a "relaunch" of an old company. This is a brand-fricken-new-company with no legal ties to the old company, despite the fact that there are personal ties to the old company and whatnot. A lot of people just don't understand the difference.

The Distinguished Gentleman

I'll try to explain, but first off....have you seen "The Distinguished Gentleman" with Eddie Murphy? The gist of the film is that Eddie' character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, is a con man and when he learns that his state's Congressman, Jefferson Johnson, has passed away before an election he runs in his place. By just using his middle and last name, the con man gets elected as a Congressman.

I'm not saying that the new TSR or Jr. are con-men, but there is a bit of an analogy. In a real and legal sense companies are basically people. When the old TSR became WotC and then became Hasbro it was more like a name change for a "regular person". Now TSR didn't "die" like Jefferson Johnson did in the movie, but basically its name did. You see TSR and WotC might now be known as Hasbro but in a legal sense they still kept a hold on to their old names. Think of it maybe like someone who goes by one name in High School, another in College, and then another (maybe they got married or something) after college, but when they go "back home"....like maybe a High School reunion, they get called by the old name everyone from back then knows them as. With this analogy, the old TSR that is now Hasbro legally let the old name (Trademarks) "die" so they simply can't go "back home" and let people call them that old name....because somebody else is using it.

Trademarks are basically just fancy names representing a legal entity. When you reserve a trademark, it has to be designated for a specific audience, AND you have to make sure that you protect that name. Simply paying to register one isn't enough. You know how people tend to use Kleenex to describe any facial tissue? Yeah, "we" can do that, but if a company making facial tissues calls their product Kleenex they are getting sued to oblivion because the actual Kleenex has to defend their trademark. Evidently Hasbro, or more than likely Hasbro's legal compliance team, let the various TSR trademarks "die" by not renewing them. Since the legal entity that was TSR became Hasbro and Hasbro still makes RPGs, as long as they maintained (and was willing to defend) the old trademark, it was theirs.

Once they didn't care, those trademarks were up for grabs. Literally that's all this is...a name. No intellectual, or real, property goes with the name. I've seen folks think that just because you now have an older company's legal name/trademarks you have X,Y, or Z from the old company.

Nope.....all you have is a name. In the movie Thomas Jefferson Johnson didn't just "get" all of Congressman Johnsons "stuff" because he now was using the same name. He did get a lot of "stuff", but only because the Congressman's widow gave it all away. Hasbro isn't giving up anything other than some old trademarks.

I wish TSR all the best and I hope the new company works out well for them, but this is not a "re-launch" of an old brand, but a new company using an old name. Don't expect to be getting new reprints of old TSR product or anything......

.......maybe I should have used Face Off for my analogy?


  1. Similar situation to FASA, isn't this?

  2. So what about the "new" TSR that published the new Top Secret? Same company or different? What about TSR that produced Gygax Magazine? Same? Different? How are these various "new" TSRs linked....or not? I was excited for the "new TSR" when they released Gygax mag and some supplements, but now it's kinda becoming a shell game as to who - if anyone - actually holds the rights to the name. (And Hasbro/Wizard could come through any day now and crush them all, I think.)

  3. Jr. track record with the marmorial tomb (still waiting on it) doesn’t bode well for the company either. I wish them luck. I would love another con close to the house.

  4. Couldn't the previous incarnation claim a use-protected trademark and proceed on that basis? It would require going to court, of course, but it's my understanding that's a valid defense.

  5. They also gobbled up the old TSR cover images and have them on t shirts as well as buying the old Gygax home and making it it to a museum, store, and payed game space (all in a residential home) The highest fee is a 1000$ person for a high end gm.

  6. Accurate.

    It doesn't help that there's TWO "TSR" companies out there... one that publishes the TOP SECRET remake game, and once published GYGAX magazine.

    The one the article is talking about is trying to drum up nostalgia for the old TSR by virtue of the fact that a Gygax brother is their exec veep and that Larry Elmore has done some art for a product of theirs. I understand they employ a couple of the old TSR's staffers, and are working on restoring the old TSR hobby shop/distribution center, The Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as a hobby and game retailer, and a museum.

    They are appealing to us old grognards' sense of nostalgia. But is true, regrettably: they ain't the old TSR, which is dead as Dillinger. A shame; it would tickle my beardy old soul to be able to buy old TSR product at the original Dungeon Hobby Shop.

  7. Gary Gygax formed TSR in 1973 in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Gary Gygax and his friends were game designers, not businessmen. Dungeons & Dragons was designed in large part by Gary Gygax playing it with his own children. His daughter actually picked the name Dungeons & Dragons from a short list of options. Gary Gygax designed much of the game and wrote many of the modules. The tone and character of the 1st edition game came directly from him. Gary Gygax lost control of TSR in 1985 and from that point on the quality of their product began to change. The quality of the modules declined as the number of items increased. People realized they were making junk. Wizards of the Coast finally purchased TSR in 1997. WOTC now publishes warning labels on the original products that were produced by TSR in the 1970's and 1980's. These labels accuse the original designers and players of racism, bigotry, homophobia, etc. WOTC has absolutely nothing to do with the original game designed by TSR. The new TSR is run by the son of Gary Gygax, Ernie Gygax with the help of people who played and helped design the original Dungeons & Dragons game. It is fitting that WOTC didn't want the TSR logo and let it's trademark lapse. WOTC has nothing to do with the TSR that existed in the 1970's and early 1980's and disavows them. The logo is now being used by Ernie Gygax who spent his childhood playing D&D and being one of the test pilots of the original Dungeons & Dragons game. WOTC has offended virtually every old gamer I know. I would like to see Dungeons & Dragons returned to TSR and put under the control of Ernie Gygax. WOTC should immediately issue a formal apology and voluntarily return control of this game to the original creators.

  8. "I'm not saying that the new TSR or Jr. are con-men" - haha, yes you are!

  9. "Jr."? Ernie or Ernest would be fine. It is like when someone intentionally gets a name incorrect to demean someone. You well know he does not go by "junior", so get off your high horse already.


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