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Bethesda's Parent Company Tells Notch 'Scrolls' is Off-Limits

ZeniMax Media lawyers up over potential confusion of Scrolls and The Elder Scrolls.

Notch put up a picture of the paperwork he received from ZeniMax on his Twitter account.
Notch put up a picture of the paperwork he received from ZeniMax on his Twitter account.

If Markus "Notch" Persson has his way, Minecraft is only the beginning for his studio, Mojang AB. It's already working on Scrolls, a still-developing idea cribbing parts from board games and collectible card games. It may or may not be called Scrolls when it actually comes out, though.

ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, has sent Persson a stack of paperwork regarding the Scrolls name, claiming potential for market confusion with its own The Elder Scrolls series.

To be clear: Bethesda the developer is not pursuing this, it's the company who owns Bethesda.

"Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started," said Persson on his Tumblr blog today. "I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark. I sincerely hope Bethesda isn’t pulling a Tim Langdell."

This isn't the first time Persson has spoken to ZeniMax about this issue, he disclosed.

Persson applied for both the Minecraft and Scroll trademarks about six months ago as a precationary measure, even though Persson admits he's not a fan of trademarks in general.

"Better safe than sorry, and all that," he said.

ZeniMax then contacted Persson over the same issue at hand: confusion with The Elder Scrolls.

"I agree that the word 'Scrolls' is part of that trademark," he wrote, "but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image."

The threat of a lawsuit wasn't something Persson took lightly, even if he concluded there wasn't a case. He actually proposed a compromise where Mojang AB wouldn't place any words in front of the name -- i.e. Scrolls: The Banana Expansion.

He's not aware if Zenimax ever responded to this proposal, but he does have the potential for a proper lawsuit brewing now.

"I love Bethesda," he said. "I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is."

ZeniMax and Bethesda have not responded to my request for comment thus far.

Patrick Klepek on Google+