Bethesda sends word via their blog that they have prevailed in a recent court battle over the legal rights to the Fallout MMO against Interplay. This entire conflict began in 2009 when Bethesda learned that Interplay, the previous trademark holders of the Fallout Intellectual Property (IP), had begun development of an MMO.
Bethesda, who had purchased the IP rights back in 2007, said in their suit that Interplay had not sought permission for this project and contested their distribution of the Fallout games before Fallout 3. Interplay was distributing these games on Steam, Good Old Games (GOG), and Gametap. The settlement reached between Interplay and Bethesda is as follows:
“Under the terms of the settlement, the license granted to Interplay to develop the Fallout MMO is null and void, and all rights granted to Interplay to develop a Fallout MMO revert back to Bethesda, effective immediately. Interplay has no ongoing right to use the Fallout brand or any Fallout intellectual property for any game development. ZeniMax will pay Interplay $2 million as consideration in the settlement, each party will bear its own costs of the litigation, and Bethesda will continue to own all Fallout intellectual property rights. Interplay will be permitted to continue to sell the original Fallout Tactics, Fallout and Fallout 2 PC games through December 2013, after which time all rights to market those games revert to and become the sole property of Bethesda. Under the original agreement pursuant to which Bethesda had acquired the Fallout property, Interplay was granted certain merchandising rights to sell those original Fallout games, but those merchandising rights will now expire on December 31, 2013.”
This was not the only lawsuit that Bethesda was engaged in over copyright infringement with the Fallout franchise; they had also filed a separate lawsuit against Masthead Studios. Masthead was the development studio which had been hired to handle the development of the Fallout MMO under Interplay’s licence, not Bethesda’s. During the time this lawsuit began, Masthead stated that they had not used any of Bethesda’s intellectual property for their MMO project. This lawsuit was resolved on December 29, 2011. The settlement reached between Masthead and Bethesda is as follows:
“In the settlement, Masthead acknowledges it has no legal right to use any Fallout intellectual property, and agrees it will not use any such intellectual property of Bethesda in the future. No payments were made by either party as part of this settlement.”
Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax gave this statement:
“While we strongly believe in the merits of our suits, we are pleased to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation while completely resolving all claims to the Fallout IP. Fallout is an important property of ZeniMax and we are now able to develop future Fallout titles for our fans without third party involvement or the overhang of others’ legal claims.”
Analysis: This has been a long, drawn-out battle. I supported Bethesda when this all started because I looked at like this: you can’t sell a car keep a spare set of keys, then take the car on a joyride whenever you want; once it’s sold, it’s no longer yours. This is exactly what Interplay tried to do with the Fallout IP. This IP was failing under Interplay, and when Fallout 3 was a success, they thought they could get away with this tactic. However, they got their hand caught in the cookie jar, and they’re lucky the consequences weren’t worse than what they were in the settlement.
I’m glad to see the close of this matter and that this IP is back in Bethesda’s hands, but I seriously hope they don’t try to make a Fallout MMO. I do like the Fallout universe and I’d like to see another game especially with Skyrim’s updated engine, but I don’t want to see an MMO. The formula has been perfect with Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, so please don’t screw this up, Bethesda.