So it appears that Games Workshop is attempting to trademark the term “Space Marine,” and has begun sending cease and desist letters as well as DMCA takedown notices (even though DMCA has nothing to do with trademarks) to anyone using the term “Space Marine” in their products.  Here are a few articles on the topic.

Space Marines and the Battle of Tradem Ark

Games Workshop Bullies Author Over Use of the Words ‘Space Marine’

Games Workshop Trademark Bullying Goes Thermonuclear

Of course, many of you know that the term “space marine” has been used for a long time in a lot of contexts of science fiction literature.  The earliest example that I am aware of is in Robert Heinlein’s “Space Cadet,” published in 1949.

I get that you must defend your trademark if you have one.  If you don’t, you lose it.  I think the thing that frustrates most people is the question of whether Games Workshop actually own’s the trademark.  Clearly they have a common trademark over the image of the space marines, as represented in their texts, and they have done a good job of defending their ownership of that imagery.  Further, there are clearly phrases that Games Workshop holds a trademark over.  “Horus Heresy”?  Sure.  “Space Hulk”?  Certainly.

But to suggest that they own the use of “Space Marine” seems to be a bit of a stretch.

How this plays out matters to all of this because the number of trademarks is not – and likely never will be – decreasing.  As time passes the number of trademarks increases, the likelihood that an individually could accidentally produce a trademark violation increases.  The time and effort that one would have to put into researching trademarks can stifle creativity and productivity in several industries.  If Heinlein’s heirs, for example, wanted to write a derivative story of Space Cadet that focused on the space marines instead of the space patrol, it seems insane to me that they would have to change their language to avoid the potential infringement.

There is a continuum between “nothing should be trademarked” and “every phrase should be trademarked.”  In this case, I’m inclined to think that Games Workshop has moved too far toward the latter.