Uh-Oh: MechWarrior 5 in Legal Trouble?

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hunterada

I'm not a lawyer or company PR guy, just a fanboy, so this isn't gospel. But it might clear up some of the inaccuracies in the article.

The second paragraph is right at least. They outright stole the original models.

This is the original Battletech boxed set:

http://i42.tinypic.com/rc6jvn.jpg

The marking on the right thigh? That's also known as the Robotech Defense Force insignia. Those guys weren't even trying to be subtle about it.

And that's where things get screwy. And complicated. FASA, the guys who held the Battletech franchise that the Mechwarrior series of video games is based off, realized that stealing is dumb. Unethical too, but dumb, in the sense that someone else can own your house because of it. So they went to the original Japanese creators of Robotech and got permission to use the images. And then they got the idea of making a Battletech TV show and toy line. It worked for Transformers, right?

So they talk to Playmates, who aren't interested in the idea. A year or two later, Exosquad comes out. And just like FASA, Playmates wasn't even being subtle about stealing stuff, because their TV show and toy line contains stuff FASA came up with on their own.

FASA sues. They came up with the idea, Playmates stole it, profited, and FASA's still a dinky little hobby company. Playmates is a lot bigger, with a lot more lawyers. Playmates gets told they're a bad, bad company, and don't do it anymore or we'll tell you to stop again. Harmony Gold, the guys who the Japanese creators of Robotech licensed to distribute it in the United States, notices the fight. They notice some awfully familiar stuff in the FASA lineup. They sue FASA.

FASA says, "But we got permission to use this stuff!" Harmony Gold says, "We hold the US license." FASA says, "But it's not actually Robotech. License does not apply." Judge says we're in a US courtroom, so regardless of what you did over in Japan, Harmony Gold is right. FASA stops using the original stuff and vows never, ever to use anyone else's art, even if they think they're legally safe. FASA also comes up with the idea of making vaguely similar designs of the original stuff. Remember the above link? New version:

http://www.theminichopshop.com/webImg/gallery/battletech/hd_warhammer/mvc-203f.jpg

It's a mecha. It has guns and missiles in approximately the same places. It's hard to mistake for the original no matter how much you squint. Lawsuit-safe, and while FASA no longer controls the Mechwarrior or Battletech franchises, they aren't going to disappear under an assault force of lawyers.

Catalyst, the guys who currently produce Battletech, even use nostalgia for the originals to sell products.

http://www.tabletopgamingnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/cat35700_25_years_mock.jpg

Looks kinda familiar, huh? But still enough differences that you can't say it's the same thing.

Current day rolls around. Mechwarrior reboot is announced. Here's a still from the trailer:

http://pcmedia.ign.com/pc/image/article/100/1002164/inline_mechwarrior_phoenix2_1247094183.jpg

It's not the original. There's differences in that spotlight, and the shape of the torso, and a few other things. But it's edging awfully close. Harmony Gold says it's close enough for legal work, and it's time for Robotech vs Battletech, round 2.

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gendoikari1

Harmony Gold taking out something awesome (robots that turn into planes) would make them StopHavingFunGuys.... damn you, TV Tropes!

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bingojubes

Robotech, after watching all 4 of the first original seasons, centered around TRANSFORMING robots from airplanes? i could see where they could make a case after the very first "season" of Robotech with Captain Gloval & crew, but i didn't read any specifics.

My guess is that the Invid race could very well be totally copied, since they were humanoid (sorta) running on protocultured bioroids. the technology seemed a bit farfetched for the Invid, so maybe Mech Warrior was just taking their idea and changing it to be more realistic. Last robotech game i played was for the first XBOX (Battlecry), and that was even a downplayed game. Harmony may have made giant people-controlled robots in the movies firs, but after the DOS versions of the old MechWarriors and ones for Windows over the years, MechWarrior will definitely come out on top.

Harmony Gold is just jealous 'cause modern day lazors and missiles look way better than their days with Robotech. Robotech season 1 still has the best storyline, even if Minmei the whiny little tramp.Maybe Harmony Gold should have looked intothe short Earthseige franchise, as well as the Starseige games.

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sirphunkee

You have to go deeper than the repackaged-for-the-west Robotech and see all of the original Macross saga to get all the similarities, but they're blatant and numerous once you see them all.  I bought the orginial (US) edition of the game, and I honestly owned it a year before I realized it wasn't a connected spinoff from the Macross/Robotech franchise

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VaMage

Remember how Apple sued Microsoft over using the GUI it stole from the
Xerox Palo Alto labs? Well this is the same thing only with mechanized
armor.

Way way way back in the day Robert A. Heinlein, The Dean of Science
Fiction, wrote a little book called Starship Troopers. In that little
book his Mobile Infantry were pretty much exact copies of RoboTech and
MechWarrior, except of course that it was written 26 years before the
RoboTech TV series in '85.

The Japanese are HUGE Heinlein fans, and given that pretty much the
only copyrights they ever cared about were Japanese, the creators
of RoboTech simply lifted the M.I. from Troopers like a music junkie
hitting Pirate Bay.

If I owned MechWarrior I'd just claim "prior art" and make Harmony Gold prove that RoboTech wasn't stolen from R.A.H. It was, so end of case, unless the Heinlein estate finally decides to sue BOTH OF THEM! <GRIN>

 

VaMage

American by Birth, But Southern by the Grace of God.

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WFUJay

This sucks.  I was really looking forward to this game.

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Hg Dragon

I thought old-skool FASA resolved the problem when they licensed the mech designs in question from Harmony Gold/Pioneer. I still have the Tech Readout manual with the color plates for the "IIC" versions with the copyright tags on the bottom of the pages. When FASA folded and sold off their properties (or, each team split off into their own companies and "bought" the licenses), did anyone take these licenses into account or did they just assume that they carried over with the BattleTech/MechWarrior franchises? I know that the Whiz Kidz "Dark Ages" game and the "Classic" storyline in the regular tabletop game revamped the designs to move away from the copyrighted ones.

 

Let's just hope that they aren't so far along that they can't revamp the problem designs and still get the game out without a Blizzard-style wait.

 

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Bender2000

I thought this was ironed out and they announced the infringed designs, called the unseen, were coming back. I want to pummel guys in a Maruader, damn it!!

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sirphunkee

Oh hell yes!  The Marauder was definitely the best of all the ones they 'ported' from Macross, I've been dying to play in one of those ever since it moved from paper to the PC. 

I'd even be happy if they just brought back some of the other 1st-gen Battletech chassis...like the warhammer...or the archer....or the rifleman...

good times, good times

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Tekzel

This makes me a sad panda.  Hopefully this gets worked out quickly, with no money making its way to those sue happy jack-legs at Harmony Gold and the game getting released ASAP!

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TechJunkie

I swear! People are just so sue happy it makes me sick. I wonder when someone is going to try and sue a PC maker, such as Dell or HP, saying they stole thier PC design and cable managment layout just because they have pics of thier garage built PC 10 years ago? Sickening.....

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gendoikari1

Its to disguise the fact that Harmony Gold hasn't done anything good since Robotech: Battlecry (and that was 6-7 years ago).

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strykyr

hmm...Macross Plus, Shadow Chronicals.  Fasa should have designed their own stuff and not stole from Khyron the Backstabber.  Shadow Chronicals was awsome.

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cdr895

Harmony Gold has nothing to do with Macross Plus. HG's "authority" over Macross ends at being able to distribute the first Macross series. Studio Nue/Big West own the rights to the characters and mechanical designs.

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gendoikari1

Harmony Gold sued in the 80s because FASA had the idea for "robots that turn into planes". Its a wonder they didn't sue the people behind Transformers (Starscream, anyone?).

 And, anything that Harmony Gold tried to do with the franchise after the original series finished (Robotech 3000 and Robotech: Something not worth remembering) didn't even get released (and sucked anyway).

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Elios

Bit of background here FASA did clear this  up back in the day they got the licence from Bigwest to use the Macross designs HG bitched becouse they had THOUGHT they had the rights but didnt

only the rights to tv show nothing more since then HG has been legal troll any thing Macross like a spoiled kid that doesnt get his way

if this goes any were near a court Bigwest will just bitch slap HG AGAIN 

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2003-01-21

<cite>It should be stressed that Big West remains the legal copyright holder of the SDF Macross design elements, including characters and mecha. </cite>

 HG DOES NOT have the rights to the designs AT ALL this is just legal grandstanding becouse they cant come up with a game

its worth noting that they wanted to make a live action "Robotech" movie and were BARED from using the Macross Designs in it heh 

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snapple00

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Gailim

the game isnt mech warrior 5. it's just "Mech Warrior" it's a sort of reboot.

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