Now that Classics Week and E3 are over, I’d like to come back to Tim Langdell for a moment, because I personally consider it to be not only a fascinating topic, but also an important one that raises a lot of issues important to the community, including intellectual property and the role of the IGDA. A lot has come up since my last post, and unfortunately, it’s spread relatively thinly across a number of interesting discussions. I’m going to do my best to summarize and provide links to source material so that people can have a better understanding of what’s going on. I make no pretensions about my personal feelings on the matter, but please consider that anything that I say for which I do not explicitly provide a source are my own opinions. I will try to make it as clear as possible when they are.
Also, apologies to the readers who come here looking for news on new games to play and are uninterested in this story. There will be some very soon, and I’ll hide the rest of the post under a jump so that you can easily and quickly move on.
A Quick Recap:
1. Fingergaming posts an article revealing that the popular, award-winning iPhone game Edge has been removed due to a legal issue with Langdell. Mobigame’s David Papazian suggests that Langdell was also responsible for Namco’s Soul Edge being renamed to Soul Blade and then Soul Calibur in the United States. (Source)
2. Simon Carless posts an article on GameSetWatch in which he suggests that Langdell has a habit of engaging in lawsuits over his trademark on the word “Edge.” Carless also notes that Langdell’s Wikipedia entry, which is oddly detailed, has been mostly edited by a single user, Cheridavis, who may or may not be Cheri Langdell, Tim’s wife. Cheridavis had denied being related to Langdell, and had insisted that she (he?) was writing an unnamed book on the game industry and was posting information she discovered through her research of the book. Carless mentions at the end of his article that because of Langdell’s history of trademark abuse it’s unfortunate that he has recently been accepted to the board of directors for the IGDA.
3. Simon’s article is removed, for unknown reasons, but has been quoted on various other websites and forums. (Source)
4. Thanks to a tip from mklee, I read Simon’s article, follow his links, and decide to make a post about it myself here on TIGSource.
5. Langdell’s Wikipedia page is cleaned up and is now under neutrality and notability disputes.
6. Both the IGDA and the “Game Attorney,” Tom Buscaglia, respond, with Tom responding on his own behalf. The IGDA claims that it cannot take any action with Langdell regarding the legal dispute. Buscaglia calls Simon’s article a “hatchet job” and implies that Carless has reason to take down Langdell because of a rivalry between Game Developer Magazine and Edge Magazine. He suggests that, in order to keep his trademark, Langdell must actively protect it by pursuing legal action against Mobigame.
(Note: Buscaglia has since apologized for his “snide” remarks about Carless and insists that his implication of a rivalry was intended as a joke. He has also edited his post to remove the latter. In this author’s opinion, there was no indication of a joke in the original post.)
Tim Langdell and David Papazian Speak
Probably the most important thing that has happened the past week is that Langdell and Papazian have both spoken up regarding the controversy, in the comments section of Stephen Jacobs’s Gamasutra blog. Jacobs has been involved with the IGDA for at least 4 years and once worked with Langdell to try and establish an organization for game educators and researchers.
It’s probably best if you read the entire discussion, starting with Jacobs’s article. But here are the basic claims by both sides:
1. Langdell claims that EDGE Games informed Apple of the trademark violation, whereupon Apple sent a standardized notice to Mobigame. At that point, Langdell claims that Mobigame pulled the app voluntarily.
2. Langdell claims that it is, in fact, Mobigame that is bullying EDGE Games over the trademark. He also asserts that Mobigame started the “flame war” with the intention of causing him embarrassment.
3. Langdell claims that he has never sued anyone over EDGE trademarks, or ever started any litigation over the trademarks. Furthermore, he claims that “EDGE has never engaged in anything other than entirely legitimate practices to protect its trademarks.”
4. Langdell asserts that he has personally produced all of the several hundred games EDGE Games has developed or produced since 1979, and that every other statement he has made regarding his own accomplishments are entirely true.
(Note: Langdell, even when asked directly, has seemingly made no attempt to verify any of this, or even provide a simple list of games he has produced. Update: But if you go to the EDGE Games website and click “Videogames” at the top, you can see a list.)
5. Papazian responds to Langdell by saying that he has not made any comments regarding the dispute since the Fingergaming article and has no prior connection to either Simon Carless or Owen Good (who penned a Kotaku article about Langdell). He regards Langdell’s accusation that Mobigame is trying to cause Langdell embarrassment as a lie.
6. Papazian corroborates Langdell’s claim that Edge was voluntarily pulled.
7. Papazian claims that Mobigame offered to change the name to “EDGY” whereupon Langdell refused the offer and proceeded to register the trademark “EDGY”. Papazian also asserts that Langdell holds the trademarks “MIRROR’S SPORE” and “SOUL SPORE,” suggesting a connection to EA’s games Mirror’s Edge and Spore, and Namco’s Soul Edge.
8. Papazian claims that Langdell has never given proof of his connection to Edge Magazine, or any proof that he has actively used the mark in recent years. He claims that the only person he has spoken to from EDGE Games has been Langdell.
Although I make no claims about the legality of anything that Langdell has done, it’s obvious to me that there is something very underhanded with the way that he operates. At best, he bends the truth. For one thing, there’s no reason not to believe what David Papazian has said, and, in fact, there is a lot of evidence to corroborate his claims (e.g. the trademarks Langdell has registered and the fact that there really is no evidence of Papazian or his colleagues commenting on the issue between the Fingergaming article and the Gamasutra blog post).
There are also many unproven, yet eyebrow-raising, reasons to be skeptical of what Langdell is saying. For one thing, there’s the whole dispute over his Wikipedia entry and whether he was personally involved. There’s also the “Mirrors a game from Edge” advertisement on the EDGE Games website, which seems purposefully misleading. In fact, if you use the Wayback Machine to look at previous incarnations of Langdell’s site, you’ll see that he’s pulled similar stunts throughout the years. My favorite is the EDGE Games jacket, which has a photo of a jacket with “EDGE Games” written on it in a red font. (Thanks to raiten for pointing this out.)
Plus, as the story has been spread, more personal anecdotes from people who have worked with Langdell have popped up, and they are terrible. Read this, this, and this, if you’re interested. It’s gruesome stuff.
Is anyone defending Langdell? Aside from Buscaglia, there appears to be a single anonymous person calling themselves either “Joe” or “mopius” who claims to be friends with Tim and is posting gems such as this on various blogs and forums:
Because of the Wikipedia dispute, there is suspicion that “Joe” is Langdell himself, but this is unfounded.
Plus, this. Seriously.
To date, Langdell has tenuous associations with and/or has claimed creative ownership of the following brands:
1. Edge Magazine
2. Soul Edge
3. Edge (iPhone game)
4. Mirror’s Edge
5. Edge of Extinction (Cybernet Systems v. Edge Games)
6. Edge Computers
7. EdgeGamers (game community)
8. The Edge (movie)
9. Edge (Malibu Comics character)
10. Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge
But it’s not obvious (to me, anyway) what Tim Langdell has actually created, aside from trouble for the various people who have had the misfortune of dealing with him and his trademark during its 30-odd years of existence. My hope is that, by helping to bring out the story, real creators can avoid him (and others like him) in the future. I don’t believe Langdell is a smart man, because a lot of his stunts are poorly managed and straight-up bald-faced – the only way he can succeed is if people are not knowledgeable.
So know your legal rights! As far as I know, trademark strength is not dependent on who “calls it” first, but on how you use it. I would love to hear a lawyer (who is not Buscaglia) comment on this matter.
Regarding the IGDA
The IGDA has taken the stance of “this is none of our business.” I disagree that it’s none of their business, and I strongly disapprove of their impotence regarding this issue. They are enabling people like Langdell when they should be helping to protect developers from them. Game developer/blogger Craig Stern sums up the situation very well. You can also see that the IGDA does have some rules regarding ethical behavior on the board and what they can do about it (scroll down).
You can sign a petition asking for Langdell to be expelled from the IGDA here.
Update: I’ve collected information regarding Tim Langdell and Edge Games here for easy reference.