If you're wondering why the great game EDGE seems to have disappeared from the App store. Read this.
IGDA Board Member Tim Langdell, IGF Mobile Nominee Edge, And A Sorry Trademark Tale
[In this analysis piece, Gamasutra/GSW publisher Simon Carless looks at the trademark infringement case against Mobigame's Edge to discover why Soul Edge never made it to the West under that name and the litigious habits of IGDA board member Tim Langdell.]
So, browsing our sister iPhone game site FingerGaming.com just now, I was surprised to learn about 'Edge Pulled Over Alleged Trademark Infringement', a news story about why Mobigame's excellent iPhone title (and IGF Mobile nominee) Edge was pulled from the App Store recently.
Quoting a statement from the article: “We have legal issues with a man named Tim Langdell,” says Mobigame’s David Papazian. “If you already asked why Soul Edge (the Namco game) was called Soul Blade and later Soulcalibur in the US, you have your answer.”
Langdell, CEO of EDGE Games and Lead Game Faculty at National University, contacted Mobigame and Apple in April asking that the game be pulled. Langdell claims his company owns the worldwide “trademark” EDGE. Despite this, the game remains up in other territories. “We have the trademark EDGE in Europe (where the game is still available),” Papazian tells FingerGaming. “And we are trying to register it in the US.”
Somewhat amazed by this, I went and checked Langdell's Wikipedia page, and discovered that, according to a massive section of the voluminous page, he's been asking for licenses for his apparent trademark 'Edge' in any manner of media or technology fields - generally gaming-related - for the past few years.
For example: "Langdell worked with Future Publishing to license the rights to the trademark EDGE to launch a new high-end games magazine, Edge, which was published by Future under license from EDGE starting in 1993. Langdell also took EDGE into comic book publishing and in 1995 worked with Gil Kane to license the trademark EDGE for a series of comic books published by Malibu Comics... Langdell also brokered a movie deal, too, licensing the trademark rights to 20th Century Fox for The Edge which starred Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin."
To be fair to Langdell, he certainly was publishing video games in the UK as 'The Edge' back in 1984 or so, as MobyGames shows, with Bo Jangeborg's Fairlight probably the most famous title produced by them.
But interestingly, the entirity of Tim Langdell's complex, detailed Wikipedia page on these licenses has been created by 'Cheridavis' - in fact the name of Tim's wife appears to be Cheri [Davis] Langdell, according to an online search. Even more interestingly, after Langdell's Wikipedia page entry was disputed, with user Frecklefoot commenting: "From your edit history, it's apparent you're either Tim Langdell or are somehow closely related to him", 'Cheridavis' comments: "I am writing a book on founding members of the game industry and noticed that Tim Langdell was one of the only people missing from Wikipedia. The article I created is based on my research, not on being Tim Langdell or knowing him personally."
Although user 'Cheridavis' is writing a book on the game industry, her Wikipedia contributions have never mentioned another person, but has, variously, changed the old AIAS entry to include Langdell as co-founder, and insert references to the word 'Edge' being licensed in graphics card articles, plus set up 'THE EDGE' as a page devoted to Langdell's trademark, and then complain when it gets removed.
It looks like trademark suits based around the word 'EDGE' and anything game-related are still occurring, too, too - here's one from March 2009 against Cybernet, who are making an obscure, long-dormant game called Edge of Extinction.
According to the suit, brought by Cybernet, Langdell started writing to them in January 2009, demanding that the 'Edge Of Extinction' trademark be assigned to him for free and that a license agreement be signed with Edge Games. When Cybernet refused, and asked for money for the domain transfer, Langdell said to "expect... [a] Federal Law Suit", so Cybernet sued Langdell and Edge. The case appears to be ongoing.
And there's some evidence, via a Virginia-based website's PDF, of a series of similar discussions with computer manufacturer Velocity for their 'Velocity Edge' gaming PCs. In this particular document, which is based around a suit by Velocity, the Court finds Edge Interactive liable for several falsehoods related to the suit, including untrue claims that Langdell had resigned from the company and could not receive the countersuit.
Overall, the Virginia District Court found a "deliberate strategy [on the part of Edge Interactive] to obfuscate and mislead this Court in order to delay the Court's determination of default." (However, the companies settled confidentially in December 2008 and Langdell now lists 'EDGE game PCs (made by Velocity Micro)' as an 'EDGE branded venture' that he has 'spawned'.)
Overall, I think we can see the pattern here. Tim Langdell strongly believes that he owns the word 'Edge' across game-related (and in some cases entertainment and technology-related) media. He will aggressively dispute the legality of anyone launching a game using the name - even if Edge is only part of the name, and if the game has been dormant for many years, as in Edge Of Extinction.
In fact, we're probably only seeing a fraction of the cases spill out into the public eye via lawsuits, since the vast majority will be settled privately - and many are settled confidentially after juddering into the courts for a while.
But now we're seeing great indie developers like Edge creator Mobigame hobbled because Langdell is aggressively enforcing his trademark based purely on a four letter name - rather than a particular style of game or character similarities, if that is even a more justifiable reason to do so. I think that's a major shame and, at least from my personal point of view, a morally repugnant thing to do.
This is even more unfortunate because it seems that Langdell was recently appointed to the IGDA Board Of Directors, a not-for-profit organization that is ostensibly set up to look after the little guy. How on Earth can he reconcile his position there with his role in getting Edge removed from the App Store? I've mailed him for comment -- and will update if he has particular things to say -- and I would hope members of the IGDA (both at lower and higher levels) will ask him similarly hard questions.