Verdict in for Games Workshop vs. Chapterhouse Studios

By Polar_Bear
In Games Workshop
Jun 18th, 2013
31 Comments
1002 Views

Bell of Lost Souls has posted up the verdict regarding the court case between Games Workshop and Chapterhouse Studio.

From the post:

Breaking down the counts along the different categories we have:

Copyright Claims
160 claims alleged against CHS
-GW won on 1/3 of the claims, including items such as CHS’ Powerfists
-CHS won on 2/3 of the claims, including the use of the underlying shape and size of GW Shoulderpads.

General Trademark Claims
9 claims alleged against CHS
-CHS won all 9 claims, including either no infringement, or fair use of the GW trademarks on CHS’ website.

Disputed Trademark Claims
21 disputed trademark claims alleged against CHS
CHS won 11 claims
GW won 10 claims

GW Trademarks ruled “Previously Used in Commerce” Claims
61 claims alleged against CHS
CHS won 35 claims
GW won 27

Notable Trends and Individual Products Under Dispute
CHS lost on some individual products including:
-Doomseer
-Dark Elf Arch Tortress

CHS won on some individual products including:
-Jetbike
-Super-heavy walker model
-Lizard Ogre

Damages Awarded:
CHS ordered to pay GW damages of $25,000 USD

Both sides may appeal the ruling.

Thoughts and Implications:
It’s looking like however CHS as an entity comes out of this ruling, the implications for the 3rd party industry are profound.

-The ruling of no infringement for the use of the underlying shape and size of GW shoulderpads is now on the legal record.
-Possibly more important is not guilty verdicts on the use of GW trademarks and terms on the CHS website.
-While certain CHS products themselves may disappear from the Earth in the aftermath of this case, it looks like the verdict may have provided a clear blueprint for the 3rd party accessory bits market. One that allows legal use of certain GW trademarks and terms in a way that goes way beyond what Nottingham themselves ever wished to allow.

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  • Veritas

    This played out exactly like I thought it would really. Chapterhouse retains the ability to make add on kits, but can’t just make models whole cloth that represent figures in the codexes or army books. This is such glaring common sense that the need for litigation was asinine.

  • 4tonmantis

    This is bawls.. I did some concept work for them.. had to fill out all sorts of BS paperwork, was told that they might come after me, and have been worried for like 3 years.. and I find out there was a ruling from TGN.. oooh.. Nick’s getting a nasty e-mail..

    • Well… for my part, at least, I’m glad I could help. 😀

      • 4tonmantis

        Yeah no worries.. I still can’t see anywhere if the stuff I designed was barred. The funny thing is, the stuff I came up with was not copied from existing materials.. but alternate models basically.. so it would be neat but it’s been years and I’m pretty much completely over it.

        • 4tonmantis

          Wow, Nick’s response was basically “so what” he actually felt like he had no reason to tell the other people involved that the trial had reached it’s conclusion.. he was actually pretty crappy about it too..

          • wittdooley

            Well there’s another reason not to ever buy from them.

          • My reaction was not “so what”.

            Is it so hard to understand I just got back from 18 days away from my daughter in Chicago, working 18-20 hours a day with attorneys with whom I will be eternally grateful towards (and friends). Michael, your initial email (which I havent heard from you in 2 years since you saying you didnt have time to work with CHS) jumped all over the fact I had not contacted you about the verdict, then call it pretty “sh$%$ty”.

            I have not posted nor emailed anyone about the verdict unless they were directly involved in the trial, as a witness, or in testimony or in danger of being sued.

            I am sorry you cannot understand how overwhelmed I have been in the last few weeks, not to mention the last 30 months. Yes you were talked to by Games Workshop over 2 years ago, but you also had a powerhouse of attorneys there to help you for free. In the end you were completely unaffected by the verdict and trial after you were contacted 2 years ago.

            If you cant understand why I did not have time to contact you personally, I am sorry.

            What is pretty sorry is you dragging your personal issue with not being notified of the verdict (which noone has except myself and counsel) and making it much more then it is. I thought it was done with our emails, I guess not.

          • 4tonmantis

            Apparently you don’t know about me being harrassed by GW’s lawyers and having to defer it to W&S or having to send every single e-mail I had that referred to you or miniatures or chapterhouse or GW, including personal e-mails to my wife to some people I don’t know to be used in a trial. I was contacted as recently as 7 months ago by someone claiming that I had designed those female guardsmen and those people told me there was a chance I could owe damages. You really have no clue what anyone other than yourself went through with this. That is what is upsetting in all this. I’ve been cautious and yeah, intimidated that any professional art created would end up in the middle of that circus… so you think it’s been rough for you, I’ve had stress too. But I guess that’s not important, since it’s not my company. As far as contacting others… that is called common courtesy. Were you obligated? No.. but to find out from TGN IS $tty .. what if BoLS and TGN hadn’t covered it? I wouldn’t have even known it was over. You don’t think that matters though. Get over yourself bud, there are other people in the world.

          • Markheim

            This is definitely not the place a professional would discuss his/her business with a client.

  • PanzerKraken

    Sounds about right. Chapterhouse screwed up, most other third party bit and model makers out there know better and have avoided trouble, but Chapterhouse did go a bit too far on some products.

    Of course GW tried to overreach with their claims but that is to be expected in such a case of this style.

    • KelRiever

      It sounds a lot like Games Workshop far over-reached than Chapterhouse screwing up. A $400,000 claim reduced to $25,000, and the majority of Chapterhouse’s products being given the green light, pretty much looks like a loss for GW to me. Of course, sure, it isn’t like Chapterhouse defended every single product, but that’s a far cry from ‘screwing up.’

      • PanzerKraken

        I doubt losing $25k is seen as a win for Chapterhouse, they were small company and that is a big chunk of change. 25k is a pretty substantial screw up, one that most other bit maker and third party model vendors have avoided.

        • 4tonmantis

          When the trial first started and around the time they released the aircraft mod for whatever that Space Marine flyer is, he was selling those things so fast, you couldn’t really keep up. The problem is, because of the legal action, no quality sculptors would work for him. It got to the point that Nick even asked me, as a concept artist to do some sculpts.. I did try but it was kinda sad.. Anyway, long story short, CHS has not had any landmark releases in quite a while to give them the constant stream of income needed to support a 25k loss. I imagine the $25k will most likely be enough to either shut him down or at least cause him to seek financial backing. I don’t want to wish ill on anyone but Nick basically threw all the artists that created the products he DID have under the bus, including me.

          • Wow Michael, you chose not to work with CHS, I didnt ask why, you were free to do whatever you wanted. I have plenty of talent to work with (including a very talented Roberto Cerillo and Angel Giraldez). The issue that limited our releases was I had to expend energy to the lawsuit and halt releases to keep them from being added friviously to the lawsuit by GW.

            You obviously have a personal issue with me, and your the only artist, sculptor or CAD person to have any issue with me whos worked with CHS. Maybe you should point your blame at the company who sued CHS instead of us.

            Someone is throwing people under the bus here, you are right about that. I hope you can move past whatever issue you have and stop badmouthing myself and CHS.

          • 4tonmantis

            Yeah, see.. this isn’t how it happened. For starters.. you didn’t even pay me in cash for most of the work, you paid me in sculpting supplies.. which, I’m not even a sculptor. Then, you tried to tell me at first that you would pay me pro rates to sculpt.. if.. I figured out how to do it, but then after I did some things to try figuring it out, you started talking about a whole different figure that was waaaaay less. I excused myself at that point. Then, I came back and you asked me to try something simple.. which I designed and attempted to sculpt. About that point I was contacted by GW’s lawyers and was intimidated enough to tell you that I would love to create stuff for you but I didn’t want to be dragged through the mud even further. That is on record too because Winston and Strawn asked me if I was going to do more for you and I told them the same thing. THEN, this is where it gets good.. you tried to tell me that I had to repay you what you had paid me.. the sculpting supplies, which was payment for another job. I tried to leave gracefully but you weren’t having that. You don’t get to villainize me on this Nick, you crapped all over me when I was going out on a limb to work with you.

          • Its interesting how there are always 2 sides to the story. All of this should have been talked about between the two of us privately, but you chose to make it a public spectacle. Im sorry your feelings were hurt (which you never gave me any indication until this weekend) but you sure didnt have to take a private matter and make it public and do your best to make someone look bad. Did you accomplish what you wanted to do? Again as I said in my email I hope everything turns out ok for you in the end.

          • But Chapterhouse, you dont seem to think dodgy ethics are wrong, as long as you make a fast buck. Your company is based on the work of Games Workshop.

            4tonmantis is saying basically the same thing, that you treated him with dodgy ethics, and then you are arguing the point.

            Also, from other comments I have read by you, you are just interested in making money, not in having an ethical business.

            This is how it seems to me, and is only an opinion.

          • Soulfinger

            @4tonmantis At least you weren’t paid in Dragon Dice and eighy pounds of softback novels with their covers removed like TSR did when I wrote the unpublished “Against the Giants in the Temple of Elemental Evil” crossover module for them right before the WOTC buyout. WOTC retained the rights to the work and sent me a pizza box full of 1k MTG commons as part of a non-disclosure agreement that expired last year. On top of that, I get a call from Lorraine Williams every year asking me if I want to do Buck Rogers cosplay with her, and I have to tell her, “Look, I’m married now,” and then she asks to borrow five bucks. Don’t even get me started on lawyers! Hit and run, hit and run, that’s all they ever want to talk about. Well, if hitting someone with your car because you were busy cleaning a big glob of ice cream off your pants and then having to leave the scene of the accident because you have a trunk full of ice cream that’s just about to melt isn’t an acceptable defense, I don’t know what is!

          • 4tonmantis

            ah… you’ve been missed 😛

          • I second that notion.

  • KelRiever

    Isn’t that the way of most lawsuits, though? For all the victories people like to claim, often both parties would have been better off solving things out of court. I don’t strictly blame anyone for that; I blame both parties. If $25k is enough to kill Chapterhouse, then honestly, they would have failed anyway. But for GWs part, they have lost a precedent that other companies can seize on. Arguably, they protected a certain part of their copyright, but not even close to all they wanted to protect. And those other companies who ‘chose not to fight’ (or more likely, were targets next in line) will know what they can freely produce.

    This is, of course, assuming there is no appeal. Which their might be.

    • There will be an appeal, I am not sure what the outcome will be though I believe there are many points that favor an appeal by CHS. 25K will be rough, Ill admit that, but I am now able to concentrate on new products and components instead of the constant trial looming on the horizon. I have 2.5 years worth of effort to catch-up on. It would have been great if the other 3rd party companies out there would have helped, but thats not how business works. Regardless I am satisfied with the stance CHS took and am satisfied with most of the rulings. Time to get back to the project table now..

      • KelRiever

        Well, I think you’ll survive. And regardless, the ruling not only seemed to help you, but the industry at large. For that, you have something to be proud of. Now, I know proud doesn’t equal $25,000 of cash or a successful appeal, but it isn’t nothing, either. Call Scibor and tell them to help out 😉

        • I think we will survive, it is just the uphill battle Im worried about at this time, playing catch-up to the competition (they have a 2 year head start now).

          Wouldnt that be an awesome world, when you could companies to assist in a common cause?

          Nick

        • I don’t know if creating a precedent for people to jump on the ropey-GW-knockoff bandwagon is really a help to ‘the industry at large’ or something to puff your chest about. GW is monolithic enough without sucking in a bunch more dependent little satellites, that might’ve diversified.

          • You are clearly entitled to your opinion. Regardless of the outcome, the vast majority of our products supplement GWs model range and enable the hobbyist to further customize the kits they already purchased from Games Workshop. So your GW-knockoff comment is not accurate.

            If you want to think CHS is single-handedly at fault for the plethora of small miniatures companies that make items for 40k hobbiest, that is your right (how is that bad for the consumer and the choices they make?).

          • You are basically undermining the rights of a company to protect their ideas. Your long effort to argue your point has shown that it is legal, but is it ethical?

            If I come up with a great idea, that makes money, will you be selling ripp offs of my stuff? The ruling in this case basically undermine any protection other companies have for thier product ranges.

            You dont care though, as you only make ripp-offs of Games Workhsop. Dont act like you are doing a service for the smaller companies, as you are only interested in leaching from the larger one.

            How come you dont make Warmachine rip-off work too?

          • mathieu

            How come you dont make Warmachine rip-off work too?

            Probably because the ICv2 rankings Warmachine fans like to quote as the proof of their favorite game’s popularity is based on incredibly incomplete data. 40k just sells a lot more than anything else out there… If you want to base your business on ripping off another game you’d be silly to do it on any other one, really.

  • Well, all the best Nick. The ordeal has given you some clarity over what is permissible and has cleared the decks for you to get back to doing what it is your company does best.

    • Thank you Alan! We are already moving forward with some new releases as well as some defensive terrain KickStarter ideals!

  • Osbad

    As GW are down an estimated cool $1m in legal fees (according to commentating legal folks on the dakka thread), and only stand to recoup $25k, while Nick is free to develop his business using the vast majority of designs GW wanted him to stop using, And aside from the financial pounding they took, GW, even though they would never admit it, can’t be happy with the ragging they got at the hands of CHS’s legal team which made them look about as professional as the Keystone Kops!
    I guess I fail to see how anyone other than the little guy came out ahead, even though it has been at great personal expense and effort.

    Of course some of the numbers may change if this goes to appeal, but even so, right now it looks like David gave Goliath a bloody nose, at least to this third party!