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Fallout creator gets sued for alleged infringement

Bethesda Softworks files suit against Interplay for alleged trademark infringement related to the Fallout game franchise. But it's more complicated than that.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Fallout 3
Fallout, a role-playing game set in post-nuclear apocalypse, is at the center of a legal controversy. Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks, the current rights holder for Fallout, has sued franchise creator Interplay for alleged trademark infringement.

Back in 2007, Interplay signed over to Bethesda the rights to the Fallout game franchise for $5.75 million. That agreement required Interplay to provide Bethesda with packaging and promotional material prior to the release of any Fallout game that Interplay developed.

After Bethesda's successful Fallout 3 launch, Interplay saw the opportunity to release the Fallout games it had developed--Fallout 1, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics--in a package called the Fallout Trilogy.

According to court documents that Bethesda filed last week in U.S. District Court in Maryland, Interplay did not seek its approval of the package's promotional material. The court documents--reported by game site Gamasutra--allege that the release of the Fallout Trilogy could confuse customers. Bethesda cites Interplay's Fallout Trilogy and its own Fallout 3 as an example of such confusion. The company also objects to the use of the term "Trilogy," saying the franchise is not a trilogy.

Bethesda also accuses Interplay of other contract infractions. The company claims Interplay is in breach because it signed digital distribution rights on its Fallout titles with GameTap, Steam, and other services.

Bethesda is seeking an injunction on Interplay's sale of the Fallout Trilogy. According to court documents, Bethesda even wants to terminate a trademark agreement with Interplay.

As part of that trademark agreement, Bethesda allows Interplay to develop a massively multiple online (MMO) game under the Fallout banner. Interplay was apparently supposed to be in full-scale development by April 2009 and finding its own funding sources. Bethesda alleges that Interplay is in "breach of contract" for not ramping up its development efforts.

If the court decides in favor of Bethesda, the MMO project would be scrapped, leaving Interplay with no Fallout games.

Fallout MMO is Interplay's last best chance to stay relevant in the Fallout world. If it lost the possibility of ever creating a Fallout game again, Interplay could effectively be left out of its development in perpetuity.

Interplay could not be immediately reached for comment.

If you want to check out Fallout Trilogy, click here.