In Plain English: KLM Starfall Education Foundation v. Trion Worlds, Inc.

Today’s In Plain English covers the very short lawsuit between Starfall Education Foundation and Trion Worlds regarding the Rift expansion Starfall Prophecy. You may be aware that Trion Worlds recently changed the name of the expansion to the Prophecy of Ahnket and wanted to know why. The explanation lies in a recent lawsuit filed by a children’s charity foundation over its ownership of the trademark “Starfall.”

If you don’t know what Starfall is, I’ll let the charity’s website explain itself:

Starfall Education Foundation is a publicly supported charity, 501(c)(3). We create free and low-cost experiences whereby children can successfully learn through exploration. On the Starfall website and in Starfall classrooms, children have fun while learning in an environment of collaboration, wonderment, and play. We teach through positive reinforcement to ensure children become confident, intrinsically motivated, and successful.

Donors to the Starfall Education Foundation can sleep soundly knowing that your contributions went to fund the Bardacke Allison LLP, Melkonian & Co, and Purvis Gray Thompson, LLP law firms for the purposes of filing a dispute over a video game expansion title. For what might otherwise seem to be a pretty minor issue, Starfall decided to bring a team of three lawyers on board, an ultimately pointless move since Trion Worlds didn’t put up much of a fight or make much in the way of arguments on their own behalf.

Still, a $400 filing fee is a big lump of money when your 2015 revenue looks like this (via Citizen Audit):

Unlike certain other cases covered here on In Plain English, this story is fast and has a simple ending. Rather than fight what could become a lengthy and costly legal battle over something rather trivial, Trion Worlds decided to settle. Those of you who play Rift, or read about it, will know that Trion Worlds has changed the name of the expansion to Prophecy of Ahnket, a decision that might be confusing if you don’t understand this underlying context.

Trademark ownership is only as strong as the owner’s protection, although MMO Fallout has doubts that the case would hold up given a company willing to lawyer up and take a stance. The numerous Starfall video games and video game related websites that we were able to find over the course of a half hour, many of which predate the Starfall 2002 founding date, and thus its 2004 trademark registration date, could make a solid case against Starfall’s claim to the term. Still, I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take any of this as legal advice.

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