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Bethesda, Interplay Continue  Fallout  Legal Battle
Bethesda, Interplay Continue Fallout Legal Battle
April 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft

April 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Interplay will continue to sell older Fallout games and continue work on a Fallout MMO, the game publisher said Thursday in a regulatory filing.

The news comes as Fallout IP owner Bethesda Softworks on Wednesday dismissed an appeal that sought to overturn a U.S. District Court judge's ruling denying a motion by Bethesda to enjoin Interplay from selling the catalog Fallout titles and working on the MMO, also known as Project V13.

Interplay distributes the franchise games Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, which it owns and has been making available via physical and digital outlets.

However, in an aggressively worded SEC filing, Interplay said that it will continue to pursue counterclaims against Bethesda, which include breach of contract, declaratory judgment and an award for damages, attorneys fees and "other relief."

In a March 1 court filing, Interplay's lawyers claimed that Bethesda purposefully tried dragging out the case in order to exploit Interplay's "negative financial situation." The filing argued why Bethesda should pay Interplay's legal fees: "Bethesda was keenly aware that Interplay could not fund expensive, protracted litigation."

Bethesda filed suit against Interplay in September 2009, accusing Interplay of trademark infringement involving the sale of Fallout games prior to Fallout 3. In the original suit, Bethesda also claimed that the Interplay-developed Fallout MMO did not garner enough funding ($30 million) and failed to ramp up to "full scale" development by an agreed-upon time.

Bethesda had previously argued that due to the alleged breach of contract, Interplay should lose its rights to the MMO, and that the rights should revert back to Bethesda.

In 2007, Bethesda purchased the Fallout franchise from Interplay in full for $5.75 million. Within that purchase agreement was a trademark licensing agreement that allowed Interplay to license back the rights to develop an MMO based on the Fallout series.

[UPDATE: Bethesda's Pete Hines commented to Kotaku that the lawsuit "is still ongoing and has not been resolved. It is a minor procedural thing that took place, not a dropping of the lawsuit."

Hines added: "The bottom line is it's an ongoing legal matter, it's in no way, shape or form done... We're going to let the process play out in the courts, which is what we've said all along, but beyond that I can't give specifics as to procedures. That's not my domain."

In a Friday comment to Gamasutra, Hines added, "Bethesda Softworks voluntarily dismissed its appeal as that related only to a preliminary injunction, not a complete resolution. All claims in Bethesda's complaint against Interplay remain pending in their entirety and will be pursued actively."]

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Kevin Reese
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Great news. Three big hurray's for Interplay.

Jeremy Reaban
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It's pretty bad of Bethesda to do this. If anything, Interplay selling old Fallout games helps keep awareness of the Fallout brand alive. It hardly robs sales of the newer games, they aren't even remotely competing.

Gregor Manby
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Interplay selling the old Fallout games isn't the issue, its the fact that they marketed them as 'Fallout Trilogy', knowing full well that unsuspecting parents/partners etc... would buy the wrong product by mistake. It really narks me when companies do this. And especially after there was a clause in the contract saying Interplay had to get all packaging for old Fallout games approved by Bethesda first (presumably to stop that very thing happening).

I couldn't care less about the MMO issue, other than to say, I have a much higher confidence in Bethesda producing a good MMO product than I do Interplay, who if we're all being honest, are well past their glory days.

Michael Smith
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"...unsuspecting parents..."

When I first read this I was nodding my head, but then I realized what games we're talking about. Heh.

Jonathan Osment
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@Gregor, The problem with that is that the "fallout trilogy" package name was used PRIOR to Bethesda acquiring the IP from interplay in 2007. The argument that Interplay intended to confuse consumers is therefore null and holds no weight. Bethesda or rather Zenimax created a studio dedicated to online games coincidentally around the same time they bought the IP from Interplay. After realizing Fallout was a hot IP, the studio most likely wanted to reserve it for their own online studio. The problem was that Interplay has the rights for the mmo, so they did what they could to keep interplay from making the game due to their own desire to do so. Zenimax has a nasty history, the owner, at least from my perspective is a corrupt lawyer who had Todd Howard help him in taking over Bethesda and has also been accused of illegal business practices in the past, including bank fraud. I wouldnt put anything past them at this point. Herve Caen, who is largely responsible for Interplay's spiral to doom (in the past), also isnt a great role model in this regard, but i do not see much fault with Interplay in this case other than the fact they shouldnt have sold off the IP in the first place.

gus one
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Dig into Bethesda and you will rather unpleasantly discover that it is ultimately owned by Russian mafia.

Jay Simmons
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The game industry pretty much boils down to people with money exploiting people with talent. Petty corporate climbers rise to the top while the truly gifted programmers and artists get pushed aside. That's just a fact. The game industry is gone down the same road as every other entertainment industry and it will only get worse. Weather it be obnoxious pseudo-celebrities appearing on talk shows or corporate giants gutting dev studio talent, the industry we once knew and loved is gone. Yeah, I'm cynical.

Sander van Rossen
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@gus one: citation needed

Andrew Heywood
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@Jonathan Osment - I don't think that's the case. I bought the pack back then, and still own it, and it is/was called "Fallout: The Ultimate Collection". I don't know precisely when in the intervening years the name changed, but change it did - presumably for a reason and not just on a whim. And it certainly changed after Bethesda bought the rights - part of the suit involves whether or not Interplay were entitled to rebrand their product without consulting Bethesda, which would be a non-issue if it took place before the rights changed hands.

Jonathan Osment
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@Andrew, The name was different depending on region. The package sold as three different names back then, which also included the "fallout saga" as well. The first use of the Fallout Trilogy was in 2004 and sold in the UK and Poland. It was used again in 2006 in the US and Australia.

Patrick Dugan
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I think a lot of us loved the original Fallout games, perhaps more than Fallout 3, and that is biasing the discussion. The most relevant facts of the matter are not disclosed in this article: the terms of the 5.3MM USD deal to sell the IP rights to Bethesda. If the deal allowed Interplay to do what it's doing then ok, if not then Bethesda has a case for breach of contract.

Patrick Dugan
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Sorry, 5.75MM USD deal.