One game is called Scrolls. One game is called Skyrim, though, more formally, you'd call it The Elder Scrolls V. Confusing?
Those names are too close, according to lawyers from Bethesda Softworks, the company behind Skyrim and authors of 15-page letter to Minecraft maker Markus "Notch" Persson and his studio Mojang, complaining that Scrolls is running afoul of the Elder Scrolls trademark.
"The sign Scrolls exhibit significant visual, aural and conceptual similarities with my principal's trademark The Elder Scrolls," Bethesda's lawyers said, according to a Google Translation of the letter, written in Swedish and Tweeted by Persson today. "These similarities are reinforced by the fact that in the entertainment industry, including the computer games industry it is common practice for goods and services with a common commercial origin to be marketed as characterized by are constructed from a common brand elements. For example, the company Nintendo's world famous Mario series with game titles like Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros., or company Blizzard's Warcraft series of games titles such as Warcraft Orcs and Humans and the World of Warcraft.... there is a clear risk to the average consumer to get the idea that goods and/or services provided under the sign Scroll and The Elder Scrolls from the same commercial origin or at least from economically-linked undertakings. Against this background, it is our opinion that Mojang's use of the sign Scrolls constitutes an infringement of my principal."
Translation of translation: Bethesda to Notch: Change the name of your game.
Lawyers and companies must protect trademarks, we assume. We've contacted Bethesda to flesh out their complaint and explain what they're hoping will happen, but we've not heard back from them. UPDATE: A Bethesda rep declined to comment for this story.
Reached for comment by Kotaku, Notch said he had to eat dinner first. He's also cheerfully Tweeted that he still loves Bethesda ("This is hopefully just lawyers being lawyers.") and is looking forward to the company's Prey 2.
Just two month ago, Notch and Skyrim lead creator Todd Howard happily interviewed each other for Game Informer magazine. (Pictured left and watchable here). They seemed to get along very well. And Notch has even wanted to release the post-beta version of Minecraft officially on the same day as Skyrim, though he's since decided to bump it back a few days. All's seemingly going well with these two crews.
What to make of this so-far happy clash then?
Let's at least compare the games here.
This is Scrolls.
This is The Elder Scrolls V.
One is a card battle game. The other is a role-playing game about fighting dragons. Strange. Wouldn't you have thought it was Notch's other game that would have gotten lawyers exercised? There's been a trademark or two in player-made Minecraft levels.
You can contact Stephen Totilo, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.