Trion Worlds Responds to the Palladium Books “Rift: Planes of Telara” Trademark Lawsuit–Comes Out Swinging!

Trion Worlds, publishers of “Rift: Planes of Telara” responded in a filing to the “Rifts” trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Palladium Books. You can view the original Palladium lawsuit filing in my earlier post. [pullshow]I suggest you download that paperwork and take a quick look before reading the Trion response, as the Trion paperwork is essentially a point-for-point refutation of Palladium’s arguments.

Trion responded very aggressively to Palladium’s claims. Foremost among their response is the claim that Palladium has no right to the “Rifts” trademark on video games at all! In fact, Trion intends to challenge the trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Here is the relevant section of the filing.

Trion Worlds is filing petitions to cancel Palladium Books’ trademark registrations for fraud on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Palladium Books cannot seek injunctive relive based on these registrations and has made no showing of any common law trademark rights.

The filing argues that the lack of any “Rifts” video game in the past few years makes the trademark subject to cancellation. The poor showing of the “N-Gage” “Promise of Power” game merits mention several times. Trion Worlds also goes on to directly attack the popularity and value of “Rifts” as an intellectual property.

As time has gone one, [pullthis] Palladium Books’ games have become less relevant, and seem to have waned in popularity and commercial success[/pullthis] (the Main RIFTS book has only sold 250,000 copies in over 20 years on the market;, 45,000 of those were in its first year). Ex. 2. Even its fans bemoan the lack of originality in the RIFTS materials and unwieldy set of rules.

Trion also argues that there are many examples of the word “Rift” in the fantasy and science-fiction world. Examples provided included several fantasy novels with “Rift” or “Rifts” in the title, various movies and other media products (including “Tripping the Rift,” which gave me a chuckle) and a section detailing Raymond E. Feist’s “Riftwar Saga.”

There are several other interesting sections, but one paragraph caught my eye.

The only “games” that Palladium Books has ever produced in any significant numbers are its series of “pen and paper” role-playing game books. These games are played by a small group of players sitting around a table, rolling dice, and talking about what their “characters” are doing. In sharp contrast, MMO games like the R:PoT Game are played online with a computer, feature advanced, realistic graphics and involve the simultaneous interaction of thousands–or even millions– of players. For a comparison of the very different gaming experiences, please see Exhibit 14 (photos) and 15 (YouTube videos). The contrast is striking, and demonstrates that even if both products could broadly be described as “role-playing games” that involve the ubiquitous storytelling element s of inter-dimensional “rifts,” they are only as “related” as ping-pong and basketball, both of which are “games” that involve the use of “balls…”

Make of this argument what you will.

There is simply too much in this document for me to regurgitate, so here is the original document for your examination.

Trion World’s Response to the Palladium Rifts Lawsuit

Palladium quickly responded with this filing from Kevin Siembieda.

Kevin Siembieda Responds to Trion Worlds FIling

Mr. Siembieda responds on a point-by-point basis to the Trion filing. Here is Mr. Siembieda’s response to the “waning popularity” contention.

Finally, Trion tries to paint Palladium and me as “has beens” and that no one in the gaming world knows us or pays any attention to us. The fact is, however, that Palladium and RIFTS are extremely well known in the industry and RIFTS® is considered one of the seminal RPGs. We are so well known that in November 2009, Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft– the world’s most successful MMORPG in history – flew me in as a special guest to speak to their writers about writing and game design. During the seminar, they asked questions that referenced the tremendous influence RIFTS® and my work have had on today’s videogame designers, as well as asking me why there hasn’t been a Rifts MMORPG yet.

Both of the documents make for interesting reading. I will keep you apprised of any further developments.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

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trask

Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

30 thoughts on “Trion Worlds Responds to the Palladium Books “Rift: Planes of Telara” Trademark Lawsuit–Comes Out Swinging!

  • June 8, 2010 at 12:19 pm
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    Other than the, “Wow – they ain’t fooling around!” response, the ‘Trion World’s Response’ link is missing an “f” at the end, making it somewhat of a dead link; you can add the “f” on manually and it works fine, so it’s the hyperlink that’s the issue.

    • June 8, 2010 at 12:51 pm
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      Thank you. It is fixed.

      Trask

  • June 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm
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    Ouch. While Siembieda’s response is actually pretty good and relevant, it is clearly now \go time\ for Trion. Tomorrow’s legal proceedings should be quite interesting. As I previously noted, one wonders how quickly Palladium threw out the lawyer card, and whether or not this could have gone down differently.

  • June 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm
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    All I see here is a has been Pen and Paper RPG trying to hitch a ride into the lime light with a MMO which will revitalize their game, I see greed on the part of Siembieda’s part. Seimbieda has a long history of throwing out the lawyer card immediately. They will not win this one however, they simply do not have the monetary means to keep Trion in court where Trion does. I see this as a wake up call for those people trying to copyright common names as their, trying to copyright Rifts as theirs is like trying to copyright the color Red.

    • June 8, 2010 at 5:44 pm
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      Oh? Like trying to copy right “Star” and “Wars”? Give me a break Eludajae. It is their property to protect and they have every right to do so.

      • June 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm
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        Okay one break coming up “break”. I don’t think Siembieda is going to win this one.

        • July 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm
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          Eludajae, you must be one of those people who actually mistake an MMORPG or any computer RPG as a real RPG. You’d be one of those guys that would try playing the game because one of your good friends was trying to get you some culture and end up playing a min-maxed idiot because that is how you play your MMORPGs. There is NO role-playing in MMORPGs not once have I heard or read anyone communicating as if they were actually there character. You are in the group that has mistaken the R in RPG to mean Roll as in die (that would be the plural of dice). You as a game player never take on the role. You make me sad. Your from the culture that replaced the book with the TV.

    • June 13, 2010 at 9:30 am
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      Hi, Rifts has actually been around for over 25 years and there is a trade mark for it. If the government ignores this trade mark right then it opens up a whole new can of worms. Me if they can do this, there are several copy rights I like to get hold of and use to make a profit.
      The main point is the story line are the same, its literally word for word.. That means the company Trion woods is stealing intellectual property. When I was in college that was considered the worst thing a person can do and I think Rifts has a really good chance of winning. In reading Supreme Court rulings intellectual property is protected.

  • June 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm
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    “A devastating magical eruption has tattered the veil between Telara and other planar dimensions. Perilous rifts occur when two planes intersect, allowing passage between different dimensions.

    Rift: Planes of Telara™ is a fantasy MMO role-playing game set in a dynamic world being torn apart by powerful rifts from other planes. No part of Telara is truly safe, as rifts between the planes unleash sudden invasions without notice.”

    Replace the word Telara with Earth and you could be describing nearly any Palladium book. I don’t think Palladium is being knee-jerk on this one.

  • June 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm
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    Trion has laid out an absurd case based on the hopes that Palladium Books would run out of money and not fight. Their premises fall flat at every turn from a legal perspective.
    1. The claim that a limited book run negates copyright only works if there’s virtually no activity. Palladium seems to have put out a steady stream of Rifts reference books and paraphernalia, keeping their product alive and well…if not massively profitable. Trion’s claim is essentially, that all mid to small publishers can have their trademarks stripped away during economic slow downs by anyone who wishes. That’s a non-starter.
    2. The claim that the property can be stolen because it’s a video game as opposed to a role-playing game is absurdity of the highest level. Could someone make a scrabble video game and call it scrabble and then claim it’s not infringement because Scrabble is a board game? Of course not. They have to at least rename it and change some of the rules.
    3. The fact that there is a movie option, interested from MMORPG companies, and an actual script now for a Rifts film makes it apparent that the trademark is not only viable, but Trion predicted its eventual success and tried to come in through the back door in hopes that Siembieda would be unable to defend his property.
    Trion has put its back against the wall and is now fighting for its very survival. They have to throw everything possible out there to keep this alive, because Siembieda’s attorneys have a very strong case, not only for summary judgment, but punitive damages as well…

  • June 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm
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    1. Trion has guaranteed that I will never do business with them.
    2. Anyone who supports Trion in this attempt at theft will never get a nickel from me.
    3. Trion’s legal arguments are weak, ineffectual, and completely lacking in anything remotely like a basis in law.
    4. I hope that punitive damages run into the millions for the blatant theft of intellectual property.

    /Subjugator

  • June 9, 2010 at 6:51 am
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    Yup Steve…in this case, Trion’s violated Palladium’s trademark…at least.

    /Sub

  • June 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm
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    Tremendous work. You should win a RPG Blogger Award for this.

    I worry that it doesn’t matter what merit this case has–does Palladium really need or in a position to afford any sort of legal battle right now?

    Kevin’s response was excellent, but this whole thing smells like trouble.

    • June 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm
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      Ah shucks. You are making me blush. 😉

      Trask

  • June 11, 2010 at 8:55 pm
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    I posted this elsewhere and thought it would be good here….

    You know it seems to me that Trion worlds is probably in the possession of some great game, but that does not mean it is not a rip-off of the original intellectual property. You see without the Wachowski brothers The matrix would have likely never materialized. However it did come out that the IP was stolen from a book and they had to pay. bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter that The Matrix was a movie and her story was a book, and it doesn’t matter that Palladiums IP is in books and that Trion Used it in a game. What matters here is that Palladium owns the copyright on the RIFTS IP and while the term rift is universal, the content of RIFTS is very much it’s own and very different in a way that can be easily recognized when someone is spoofing it. The fact that someone like Trion may actually trying to steal an IP based on “well nobody has made a video game of it so we thought we could get away with it” mentality just seems not only asenine, but sounds like they need to go back and re-read their copyright law. Aside from Dungeons and Dragons I would have to say Palladium Games are the second largest provider of role-playing games as fans are concerned, and if Trion is successful it will be a gross injustice that should be appealed at the highest court it can until it is overturned. I don’t even work for Palladium. I think that Trion has a wake-up call coming. If Trion were half as moral as they are ignorant then what they would have done is approached Palladium with an offer to use the game as a palladium game and divy up the profits accordingly as an officially licensed game, it not only would have sold more games for Trion it would have sold more books for Palladium as well… Tell Palladium if they need some artistic or writing Talents I am behind them all the way to help add to their already bountiful and EXTREMELY talented bullpen already. And Trion if you as much sense as money you’d pursue licenses for video games to make your own original material based on those licenses. I hope what you have wrought is more than 40% different in it’s content otherwise I hope the Judge fries you on it!

  • June 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm
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    I support Palladium and their intellectual property. I own many, MANY games by Palladium (including their now rare TMNT line). I find Trion’s defense of trying to paint Palladium as has-beens as risible, since it does NOT address the most important part of this whole issue: They violated Palladium’s intellectual property rights. No matter how ‘senile’ a trademark may be (Tigersharks, anyone?), it is still owned by its holder and it is properly theirs to defend!

  • June 12, 2010 at 11:37 am
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    Trion’s arguments strike me as typical legal retort stuff. Their notion that tabletop RPGs and MMOs are so incredibly different isn’t really very compelling. The big difference there is in scale, not substance. And scale had nothing to do with the veracity of copyright. Sure, the use of “Rift” has been used elsewhere, but in the role-playing game arena, you use “Rift,” then you’re inviting a legal claim from Palladium. Frankly, I think Palladium has a far stronger case here than Trion does.

  • June 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm
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    Wow, I was looking at the videos for the game, you can even capture the essence of the creatures you kill to advance your character. All I could think of is absorbing released PPE. This game is such a blatant theft of Palladium’s ideas. I don’t care how much money someone throws at this, the courts would have to see this is a blatant rip off.

  • June 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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    Did any of you other than the author actually read the response from Trion? The reason i ask is there have been several comments to the effect that Trion’s case is trying to paint Palladium Games as “has-beens”. Had you read Trion’s document, you would have seen that this is clearly a subset of the issue at hand, and those statements were only made in response to an accusation by Palladium Books that Trion is, “Knowingly and intentionally attempting to free-ride on the good will” of the RIFTS mark. For them to respond that the game was at the heigh of it’s popularity primarily in the 90’s (which is true), and to reference small sales numbers since release is a perfectly acceptable response to that accusation and serves to show the absurdity of the accusation.

    Trion has a VERY solid case. As far as I can tell the only people who have been confused on this issue are previous Palladium Games RIFT fans. Even on MMORPG.com, a very popular MMO site, the only people who have posted that they feel Trion is at fault, are self proclaimed fans of the RIFTS pen and paper game.

    I could go into further detail why Palladium Books essentially screwed themselves by filing this suit, but given that this appears to be a pen and paper website, i’m sure the average reader is going to be heavily biased towards palladium books, so my words will fall on deaf ears.

    • July 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm
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      And the possibility of 250,000 fans mistakenly purchasing this game, which we may have done without it being contested, isn’t motive enough? If everyone of those books was purchased by seperate individuals at $60 a game that is $15,000,000 even if only 10% of the fans purchase it its still $1.5M and that isn’t counting the monthly fees associated with most MMORPGs. Hell tell me anyone who wouldn’t go for free advertisement and getting $1.5M. Yeah that may be small money for games but if your an upstart company…

  • June 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm
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    My, my Bill. How quickly you and Kevin have become friends again, short term memory there. And any of you thinking that palladium are in the right and are going to win this for sure really have lost the distinction between the fantasylands you play in and reality.

    • June 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm
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      Let me see if I understand this correctly. You think Trion is in the right here? How so?

      Does the trademark for Rifts exist? Yep.
      Is it particularly relevant for roleplaying? Yep.
      Is it an active trademark? Yep.
      Is there substantial cause for Palladium to object? Yep.
      Are they using IP from Palladium in such a way as to draw eyes away from Palladium’s products and to that of Trion’s products? Yep.

      I daresay that Trion is in violation of trademark law. Lilth Ann, what is your reason for saying Palladium will lose the case? Is there a legal reason, or do you just want Trion to win really badly, so are saying they will? I imagine it’s the latter, as there is ZERO basis in law to support their overall case.

      /Sub

      • July 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm
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        TM or (C)? I hope (C) as it is easier as TM requires simularities in the symbols which are very different. IP may be a close one to claim too as from what I’ve seen of Rift: blah, blah, blah there are many simular mechanics but it is fantasy. Now if the Judge actually reads up they would understand that Rifts isn’t JUST sci-fi as it covers the Palladium Megaverse wich covers PFRPG, HU, N&S, and every other title PB has or had made.

        Stay safe with (C) and don’t use Rift as your primary title reguardless of the subtitle (after the : )
        Stay safe with IP and don’t make a game where it uses concepts simular to PBs system. Single concepts can be taken as coincidence but when there is an abundance it is just too obvious.

        Stay safe with TM: Don’t use a creature that is part tech part fantasy behind the bold print of a title in a similar font.
        regenerate/absorb magic from sacrificing creatures
        jump realities through naturally occuring gateways

  • June 25, 2010 at 2:45 am
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    Palladium books fucked up with the trademark RIFTS. Its hard to protect a single word trademark that’s straight out of the dictionary without lots of money. If Palladium books had done something like RIFTS:Plane Wars it would of been easier to protect the trademark and make a larger case for them, but at the moment their lawsuit is completely retarded.

    Palladium books seem to be grabbing for money in my mind nothing more. Rift and rifts has been used in written form in hundreds of works of fiction. Palladium books likely grabbed for this lawsuit against Trion Worlds believing that they’d settle out of court for one reason or another.

    Its completely within Palladium books’ rights to sue Trion Worlds if they believe that their trademark has been infringed, but this lawsuit doesn’t have much to stand on. The issue of concern by Palladium books is rather silly anyway its going to be hard to convince a judge that Trion Worlds has actually infringed their trademark.

    • July 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm
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      Yeah because there was a lot of difference between Hellspawn or Spawn and Nightspawn. As stated before 15M on an unchallenged MMO from Rifts fans because they see it read it see how similar the game system is and then buy it should be able to be applied to malicious intent. Trion was hoping they didn’t notice or raise up against them. If PB doesn’t challenge it weakens their hold on the (C). It isn’t a TM suit it is a (C) suit. There are differences. First off a TM has to be readily recognizable and is a symbol. In contrast (C) is much easier all you have to do is show that you had the name or concept first, many writers often mailing a copy of their proof to themselves so it can be date stamped by the USPS proving when it was done. If PB was grabbing for money they’d try waiting until TW made some money instead of getting them before.

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  • January 30, 2011 at 11:43 pm
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    this is a perfect example of why “intellectual property” is a horrible thing. it holds the world hostage and holds us back from all that we could have. case in point.. if palladium succeeds, then what? then we won’t get to have that awesome mmorpg launch and we are stuck with WoW again?? are you guys serious?

    you know i heard that blizzard flew the palladium guy out as a special guest in 2009 to discuss why there hasn’t been a RIFTS mmorpg… i smell scam here. Blizzard knows that Trion Worlds could become the new Blizzard of the next-gen gaming era and they feel threatened. Trion Worlds has a next-gen WoW-style game and a next-gen Starcraft-style game.

    P.S. all of your arguments about “trademark” and “intellectual property” wreak with the stench of tyranny to me.. those very notions are oppressive in nature… what is wrong with you ppl?.. it is noobs like you who keep the world far behind where it should be

  • April 8, 2011 at 9:53 am
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    This is silly. if Palladium had an interest in making computer games then I could see rift or rifts being a commodity worthy of litigation.

    But Palladium is little more than a copyright holder in recent years.

    The concept of Rifts opening up to other worlds isn’t really a copyrightable concept. However the material integral to the rifts universe in conjunction with the use of the rifts concept is.

    The only thing Trion has done is borrow the concept of rifts opening to other places….which palladium undoubtedly copied from somewhere else.

    This lawsuit will go no where. And I have played Palladium pnp and rifts in the past. The only paralell between Rifts and Trion is the concept of rifts opening…..lol I just trademarked the color white.

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