Viewed from a distance, the entire case seems more or less cut-and-dried: Langdell has a legitimate trademark, he did what was required of him to protect that trademark and he made very reasonable attempts to accommodate a small, independent game studio which ultimately, and rather puzzlingly, rebuffed him despite knowing full well that it was on very shaky legal ground. Yet somehow it got turned around; Langdell, ostensibly the victim, has been utterly vilified by the gaming media.
It's not difficult to understand why. Langdell does not present a very sympathetic figure; despite his self-aggrandizing claims to fame, nobody seems able to track down any games his company has put out in the past decade or so. When asked directly by The Escapist's Editor-in-Chief, Russ Pitts, about Edge Games' recent track record via email, Dr. Langdell, speaking as CEO of Edge Games replied only that we should "Google Bobby Bearing."
So we did. A Google search for Bobby Bearing returns numerous results regarding the company's classic game, which has recently been ported for several different platforms. Although Langdell's critics may not consider a port of a very old game evidence the company is still making games, the law is quite clear on the matter: The company is producing product, therefore the trademark is sound.
And yet there is a certain dubious quality to the act of trademarking a fairly common word as a brand name. "An issue with Edge as a trademark, even though it is registered, is that it is not as creative as it could be. People can innocently infringe it fairly easily," says Boyd. "Even if Langdell is acting in good-faith to police his mark, he must know that this will be substantial work every year given the common use of the word."
But being shifty or dislikable doesn't negate legal rights and obligations, despite Papazian's apparent willingness to roll the dice and hope that it might. Knowing that he was at a serious legal disadvantage, he has apparently decided to do all he can to portray Langdell as a dick and a bully, and hope that the court of public opinion will somehow carry the day. The gaming press was, and continues to be, perhaps a little too eager to join in and may yet come out of this mess looking like it chose bandwagon-hopping over actual fact.
As the matter currently stands, Papazian and Mobigame appear emboldened by the wave of negative public opinion that has crashed into Langdell, while Edge Games remains determined to protect its trademark even as it continues to act evasively and lose ground in the public eye as a result. The truth is that bad behavior on both sides has turned what should have been a relatively straightforward copyright dispute into a nasty and very personal mess; unfortunately, the game media was just a little too enthusiastic in getting that ball rolling.
Alexander Macris and Russ Pitts contributed to the reporting on this story.