Space Marines go to War

Wow, ok so Games Workshop is suing an author for using the term “space marines” in a novel!

M.C.A. Hogarth wrote a book called Spots the Space Marine, and in December 2012 Games Workshop accused her of trademark infringement and had pull the book from their virtual shelves.

You may think that as GW creates an enjoyable tabletop game that features space marines (otherwise known as Adeptus Astartes) that fair enough they should have ownership of the term. Space marines first emerged from the Games workshop foundries in 1987 when they developed the Warhammer 40,000 game Rogue Trader. You may not be aware but a year before this, in 1986 James Cameron directed Aliens, a film that featured among other characters, a platoon of Colonial Marines. Before that in 1959 Robert Anson Heinlein wrote a novel called Starship Troopers which featured mobile infantry in power armour (it is also apparently required reading for the United States Marine Corps). Going back even further into the 1930’s E.E. Smith’s Lensman series made mention of space marines and in 1932 the earlies canonical mention of space marines was the short story Captain Brink of the Space Marines by Bob Olsen in Amazing Stories.

After an internet outcry and input from a number of noted sci-fi luminaries Amazon has relented but the trademark dispute is still on-going.

This whole thing puts me in a bit of a quandary, on one hand I run a Warhammer club (The ‘Hammerheads) in my school and I am a fan of a number of books and authors published by the Black Library (Games Workshop’s publishing arm). On the other hand I have been a die-hard science fiction reader since I first read Isaac Asimov, Douglas Hill and Robert Heinlein and space marines have been around since the 1930’s.

I understand that Games Workshop has to protect its intellectual property and support that, on the other hand I am saddened that I will never get to see the fan-made film Damnatus be released to DVD as I would have loved to watch it, but that ran afoul of GW’s lawyers. But to claim ownership of a descriptive term and try to crush authors using a term that has been around since the 1930’s? That makes me angry as a librarian and a person!

Very poor form!

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