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FYI: TSR did not try to trademark "Nazi"

There's an urban legend that TSR tried to trademark the word "Nazi." That's not actually true. Here's the real story, as best I remember it. Any other TSR people who have a better recollection, feel free to chip in.

Back in the 80s when TSR had a license from Lucasfilm to make Indiana Jones games, they released a game that had a bunch of square cardboard "chits" ... little square tokens with pictures on them. You'd have a chit for Indy, a chit for Sallah, and many chits representing bad guys. At least one of the chits was of a Nazi. Because it was the 80s, everyone was trademark-happy, sticking TM on everything you could, even if it made no sense. If you look at the Marvel Super Heroes game, even in the body text you'd see Spider-Man(TM), Captain America(TM), the Hulk(TM), and so on.

So this Nazi chit had a drawing of a Nazi and the word Nazi. And the word Nazi had a TM and an asterisk on it. The legal line on the chit card (the big square cardboard that you'd pop the chits out of) says [i]"NAZI(TM)*; (TM) & (C) LFL 1984; *trademarks of Lucasfilm, Ltd. used under authorization."[/i]

So the trademark notice was there at the insistence of Lucasfilm. And it's important to point out that the trademark was not for the [b]word[/b] "Nazi" (which is untrademarkable), it was for the [b]specific illustration of that Nazi character[/b].

So TSR never tried to trademark "Nazi."


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
It's not just the 80's. We had to put (TM) in the title of the Marvel Vs. cards if it had a character's name.
Sep. 25th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
I think that's because Marvel is extra gung-ho about such things.
Sep. 26th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
I still think my favorite Marvel legal story came from Jeff Grubb. He wondered often if anyone actually ever read the long, tortured lists of trademarks et al in the front of products, so one day early in the MSH line, he typed: ".... are properties and trademarks of Marvel Comics and cannot be used without permission or Hulk will Smash!"

The note back from Marvel (and TSR's legal dept) was "Cute. Cut it out."

who learned as the MSH guy that Marvel and DC each own "super-hero" and "superhero" as alleged trademarks...but doubts that'd ever hold up in court.....
Sep. 26th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
And actually the reason for the TMs on each of those standups?

Since the item could be separated from its parent product (i.e. cut out and made independent), it HAD to carry the legal mark on it.

This is the logic that was drummed into me back in 1990-1992 when I was de facto Marvel Guy (though Karen was the only one who could allegedly make management decisions on it).
Sep. 25th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
I believe it was fold up figures, but that's the way I always heard it. People still repeating 20 year old Murphy's Rules like they're gospel?
Sep. 25th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
No, it was chits, I've actually seen them. :)

I posted this because a game industry friend had never heard the rebuttal to the urban legend ... and as I was "TSR copyright/trademark guy on the internet" for 2 years, I thought I'd reiterate my debunking. :)
Sep. 26th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
Was that the core set? Because I have the adventure pack and it's triangular cut out figures, all colourfully festooned with tms and Copyrights.
Sep. 26th, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
Must be the core set. :)
Sep. 25th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Are these "chits" like the ones I got in my Star Frontiers game box?
Sep. 25th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, little flat cardboard squares.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 25th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
Monte for the win.
Sep. 25th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks alot you two. After years of therapy, I finally got those nasty images of a certain LW outta my head... now there back. arrrrgggghhh!!!


M. Huebbe
Sep. 25th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
think of all the lives which could've been saved had TSR trademarked Nazi, like, 50 years earlier. stupid TSR.
Sep. 25th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Sure, sure! The next thing you're gonna do is tell us that the old TSR building WASN'T built like a giant 6-sider! I KNOW that's true ... I saw it in What's New with Phil & Dixie!
Sep. 25th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
In fact, I have made that giant 6-sider part of my personal canon.
Sep. 25th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
You're such a Nazi for details.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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