Friday, January 29, 2010

Lone Wolf threatening Forward Kommander to sue over "Army Builder"

Just before the weekend I got an email from a legal firm called LemeryGreisler. If you are interested in what a Cease or Desist looks like, I have uploaded it for your amusement here. In short they are threatening to sue me over the trademark "Army Builder" owned by the company Lone Wolf.

As an European citizen I am maybe a little soft, but at this side of the ocean, we first try to solve problems like this without treats and lawyers. I have chosen to comply, simply because I am not looking forward to legal action even when I doubt they have a strong case, or at least would have in Europe. I would prefer to fight them on software quality, features and price point and not something as childish as this.

So in short I have removed all references to this product as "Army Builder", but the mk2 hordes armies update was delayed by this stuff, what's in the new update:
* New field test stuff
* Typo in epic sevvy
* Taryn not in 4 star
* Add trolls to highborn

The next thing I am going to pickup is the login problem some people seem to have. I think this is very serious problem and if you are having this problem, please let me know.


  1. What a joke. I am sorry this happened to you. I love Forward Kommander and, quite frankly, use it exclusively since it is rock solid and kept up to date very frequently.

    There are some people on this side of the pond that can resolve things without lawyers...unfortunately, none of them seem to be in the games industry.

  2. It's not just Kilvati. Our local forum got a similar letter instructing them not to let people call any app other than Army Build an army builder. It's just silly, and in the end is going to cost LW more in good will than they expect.

  3. Silly Americans (I am Canadian) always suing somone for some pointless reason...

    LW's army builder is annoying, I can't find any warjacks in the khador MK2 list.

    Forward Kommander is much easier to figure out for a new user.

  4. Wow, looks like you got it worse than I did. I just got a letter from the company president. I'm equally dubious about some of their claims* but equally powerless due to lack of a big legal team to challenge it.

    Unfortunately I'm not sure how "common logic" stands up against "American legal system". Due to the international nature of the WWW and some international treaties, they may have only registered it in the US but they do still have some protection in most other major nations.

    At least it seems they're getting bad press about this as well and looking like bullies for strong-arming people over generic English phrases.

    * especially some rewordings that he also claimed would be covered, and his assertion that (and I quote) "Using the term 'army building application' will be seen both by consumers and the court system as either similar or derivative of the 'Army Builder' trademark", which seems a bit presumptuous without a court case to back it up.

  5. This is really a pathetic attempt to get a strong hold in a niche market. I'll continue to use your program and applaud you for taking the high road in dealing with the situation.

  6. No, it's a step to prevent confusion of two products.

    Suck it up, take your lumps, and call it something else.

  7. Valhallan42nd, you need to get off the plastic crack and think about what you type before you click on the post comment icon. confusion of two products.. what a joke, perhaps Lone wolf should have thought of that when they named the application in the first place. furthermore i think the likes of PP and Gw should be sending Lone Wolf C&D letters of their own for infringements on their IP.

  8. John,

    It is the position of the developers of Army Builder and the US Patent Office that "Army Builder" was distinct enough ten years ago.

    I tend to agree with them. Army Builder's prevalence as the first list creator led to people using their name as a short hand for any form of list creator. They just want to avoid being the Jello, Zerox, Lego and Kleenex of list creators. It is their position that they have to defend their copyright or else they lose it.

    I think it was PP's reaction to the C&D letter that was a big over-reaction. The two companies should have talked in private and worked something out instead of acting out.

  9. When did Privateer Press get involved in this?

    Copyrights do have to be defended, but the US patent system of late has gotten lazy (due to horrible underfunding) and tends to approve anything without adequate research and just lets the courts fight it out. See software patents especially.

    Also, if Lonewolf didn't want to be Xerox, they shouldn't have done the same and named their product after exactly what it does. (Xerography) Trying to lay claim to so basic a phrase is going to cause trouble sooner or later.

    Personally I don't think it was a big deal, and Kilvati has already resolved it anyway. I only use Forward Kommander, and I only call it Forward Kommander anyway.

    Kilvati, whatever you did in this update resolved my login issues. Both my old and new test accounts log in just fine now. Thanks.

    I did notice when I was trying to log in earlier than FK is downloading all of the instances of an icon as individual files again in IE (it will say 120 objects remaining, and I can see them load one by one), but not in Firefox. In Firefox it works just fine. I never use IE except for testing, so it doesn't bother me, but it might be wasting your bandwidth if you have a lot of broadband IE users.

  10. The term "Army builder" can be connected to ANY miniature wargame, and even some RPG games that allow for large scale battles, any program that can be or is used to create a list of units/troops/models/character/vehicles could be costrued as an "army builder" Not exclusively pertainign to miniature games. I'm willing to bet that GW laughed at this poor fools attempt to strongarm them into accepting his claim. Frankly I'm suprised that any large company would adhere to his claim and force moderation of the term on its customers (a'la PPs statement on the issue)
    I can't wait to see this poor schlep try to pitch a fit when the warmachine PC title comes out and people create 'army building' tools for it as well....personally i'de dispute his claim outright as being so generic as to force cencorship on an open forum (aka the internet) Regardless of who owns which webpage the internet as a whole is still considered an open public forum for discussion. let this idiot try and sue me for saying "Army builder, Army builder, Army builder, Army builder, Army builder,Army builder, Army builder, Army builder,"

    It's his own damn fualt for choosing such a generic name for his product. I hope he chokes on the bad PR he's getting for this stunt.

  11. Well, let's see...

    In the game industry, it's all IP these days. Most of the time, when people get stuff like this thrown at them is to scare them shitless.

    However, something like this is ridiculous, from a Hungarian living in the USA.
    How much easier - and cheaper - would it have been for one of those guys to write an e-mail saying;
    "Hey, you got something pimp going, however you got our name, which we got the patent for. Change it, mk? Have a nice day!"

    No harm, no foul.
    Ach, who am I kidding, this nation is sue happy.

  12. I was an avid user of "Army Builder" and for many years have enjoyed there software ease of use. It was nice to be able to see my army lists at a glance and figure out an overall strategy on how to use my army to the best of it's ability. Sadly this has completely turned me off of ever paying for LW's updates or software ever again. I can always use excel or a piece of paper.Sending a C&D letter to a forum to stop people from incorrectly using the term "army builder"? your kidding right? It is this and this alone that has soured my love for using LW's software and they can consider me no longer a loyal customer.

  13. Honestly, was the "Trademark Law" segment even necessary? Although it was delivered as an opportunity to "educate" gamers about the finer nuances of trademark law, it appeared, to me at least, as an underhanded attempt to allow Lone Wolf, unabashedly a paid sponsor of the D6G, a venue for backpedaling in order to justify their comments and actions.

    One crucial part of this debacle that was conveniently downplayed was the actual tone of the letter sent to Privateer Press. In it one can reasonably infer that Lone Wolf was seemingly dictating that Privateer Press' "forum users must be educated about the term Army Builder" and that failure to cooperate could potentially result in "interruption" to the detriment of Privateer Press' forums. This lack of tact was dismissed by Lone Wolf as simply legal ignorance, but the actual intention is clear.

    Moreover, Lone Wolf ends on this delightfully diplomatic note: "so your assistance in getting forum users to utilize appropriate terms will benefit us all." How, prithee, does this benefit Privateer Press, let alone the nebulous community of "us all"? If anything, it imposes the tedious task of requiring the forum moderators to filter the words "Army Builder" from countless posts and monitor future uses of the term. This is imposing a very inconvenient detriment on Privateer Press completely devoid of any perceived "benefit."

    But the crux of this argument revolves around Trademark Law. As a 3rd year law student (3L) with a number of courses in Trademark law under my belt, I will direct you to the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006, H.R. 683. H.R. 683 was (obviously) enacted to assist in the prevention of trademark dilution. However, congress tailored the act to be applicable to a select class of truly prominent, distinctive and renowned marks. The act defines a famous mark as one that is "widely recognized by the general consuming public of the United States." Congress, in part, expanded the law in order to prevent so-called "niche fame", where a mark is famous within only a narrow sub-community. Arguably, the term “Army Builder”, a trademark which is comprised of two generic terms common to the war gaming genre (unlike "Xerox," "Coca-Cola,” or "Rollerblade," which are universally recognized marks ), would likely not fall under the umbrella of dilution protection, unless Lone Wolf’s legal counsel could articulate a valid argument that the term "Army Builder" could be recognized by the general consuming public of the U.S., and not just the (niche) gaming community. This is highly unlikely. Also, the 9th Circuit held that “niche fame” is longer valid under the Lanham Act and CA State law; this is very telling as the 9th Circuit was one of the strongest supporters in favor of “niche fame” marks.

    In summary, this was bad PR on the part of Lone Wolf, both in regard to reputation and (arguably) legality. Please don't let the D6G, the BEST gaming podcast out there, be residually affected by Lone Wolf's actions.

  14. Sorry, above is a repost in response to the D6Generation Podcast's coverage of the entire debacle.

  15. The letter also contains a spelling or grammar mistake (depending on how you look at it):

    "Finally, your wrongful misuse of our client's trademark is capable of causing dilution of our client's famous trademark, and irreparably damage to Lone Wolf Development."

    So does cause *irreparable* damage *to* ? or does it *irreparably damage Lone...[no "to"]*. not a big deal. Also "wrongful misuse", I'm pretty sure its proper use, just "wrongful".