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Gamezone's HeroQuest crowdfunding cancelled on Verkami over rights dispute

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Gamezone's quest to publish the 25th anniversary edition of HeroQuest has already been in trouble with U.S. rights holder Moon Design Publications, which caused it be taken down off of Kickstarter and moved to Spanish crowdfunding platform Verkami -- where it was taken down again after being listed for just 5 hours on December 7.

Nick Watanabe at The Mad Adventurers Society pointed out that there is in fact another live U.S. trademark for HeroQuest (enter "Heroquest" in the Basic Word Mark Search (New User) field):

Word Mark HEROQUEST
Goods and Services IC 028. US 022 023 038 050. G & S: Equipment sold as a unit for playing board games. FIRST USE: 20131125. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20131125
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 86131779
Filing Date November 29, 2013
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) Venable, William Herny Cabell INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES p.o. box 219 port haywood VIRGINIA 23138
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

The trademark filing is recent, right around the time of the Kickstarter launch. Watanabe picks up the thread:

It is pure speculation at the moment, but the timing of the application might suggest that Mr. Venable has filed on behalf of GameZone in an attempt to end run the whole process. It takes upwards of three months for the US Patent and Trademark Office to inspect, evaluate, and make a determination on Trademark filings. If Kickstarter could be convinced that they were in the process of getting a Trademark for the name, and that somehow this would be unopposed by anyone, then GameZone could, potentially, have been able to restart the Kickstarter funding.

UPDATE: William H.C. Venable's son responded to Watanabe's claims that the attorney using the same name was disbarred as follows (see the comments for the full response):

...the attorney, William H. C. Venable, my father has been deceased since 1999. Had your reporter bothered to do his research, he would have discovered that the filing for the trademark was undertaken by me, his son. Then to publish the status of my father’s law licensure and criminal conviction, which is totally unrelated to the topic at hand, is irresponsible, unethical, and brings the credibility of your reporting methods into question. But, to further compound his utter disregard for the truth, Mr. Tresca did not note that my father’s law license was reinstated in the Commonwealth of Virginia prior to his death.

Watanabe updated his article as well:

We would like to retract and apologize for our previous statement and discussion of a different Mr. Venable. The forum thread used in the article had tracked down a separate individual who had a similar name, and was discussed in this article. All mentions of this individual and the link to the thread have been deleted. These facts are not relevant to the discussion of this story. Again, we apologize for the error.

In deference to both Mr. Venable and Watanabe's update, we've made a similar update to this article and apologize for the confusion.

Gamezone's attempts to move the crowdfunding to Verkami failed within five hours, with the site taken down (dead link). A message to Verkami backers was translated on BoardGameGeek's message board:

Dear backers,

We want to communicate our decision of stopping the campaign were you had pledged: ‘Heroquest 25th Anniversary’ The urge to publish the project by the authors today Sunday 8 at 1 am has precipitated it’s publication without being able, the team of verkami, to spend the right time to review the project. After carefully studying the campaign, we believe that the content of the project could be misleading to our users. Your pledges will be cancelled so no charges will be made in your card or PayPal account. We thank you for your trust, and we want to apologize for any inconvenience our handling of the project might have caused.

Verkami team

Dionisio Gil Rubio, head of Gamezone, was interviewed at Asociacion Cultural JugamosTod@s (@JT) translated by Google:

@ JT: No doubt Gamezone disponéis in the registration of the mark " Heroquest " in Spain to publish games and toys. This allows you to publish your own games with that title, but do you have any right or permission to copy the original game?

Dionisio - Gamezone: If copied them exactly the game, that is, if we made a reprint as is, yes we would request explicit permission of Hasbro. Is not that what we are doing, we are doing a commemorative version. All art, illustrations and components are different. That was explained in our KS [ Kickstarter ]

@ JT: What is the relationship of this project to the publisher of the original game HeroQuest? (In an official statement said Gamezone communication Hasbro permit "may or may not occur," which is frankly amazing ).

Dionisio - Gamezone: It surprising and said, "permit". It has permeated the idea that we need your permission to produce the play we're doing, and that is not so. Is not that what you asked us Moon D. What have asked us MD 's written confirmation that Hasbro will not initiate legal action against them in the U.S., to cover their own backs. And that, I tell ya, that neither Hasbro nor anyone else is required to deliver it. This request has nothing to do with the game. Is all about what territory is developing crowdfunding.

JT asks an important question about why Stephen Baker, the game's original author, was not involved in the anniversary edition:

@ JT: I have asked repeatedly about your relationship with the game's author , Stephen Baker, who could not miss in an authentic 25th anniversary celebration of his work. But reviewing your answers , it gives the impression that you avoid the subject without answering directly. Please, Have you contacted the author? Do you participate in any way in the project? Is your name will appear properly accredited?

Dionisio - Gamezone: Yes, intentionally avoided the issue because you can not summon anyone without your express consent. In KS quote Kevin Gordish as a driver of petition signatures because it gave us your express permission. A Stephen Baker I can not cite without consent. Yes it is true and we share the idea that if it is a commemorative edition should honor him. And yes we got we directly contacted to request their participation, the way he saw fit. If you give consent would mention in the credits and you homenajearía, as all participants in this project. But what I 'm not willing to use is the name of this gentleman a mercantilist fashion during crowdfunding campaign, much less without having yet responded to the request . If you were to give permission appear inside the box on credit, not used as a lure.

The author 's old HQ is a senior manager of Hasbro and participation may involve conflicts of interest of company. Hence there is nothing to say that we are not allowed to say, or why expect your participation. We all wish to honor , another thing is that feasible. Unfortunately Stephen Baker has no right to HQ, everything belongs to Hasbro. That's why he has avoided all quote him now.

I hope I was clear. In every statement I have tried to be as far as I can. This situation has been transparent and ask the opinion of the backers of the project. Nothing more. In the continuation of the project will follow this line.

It gets weirder. Watanabe points out that Gamezone was collecting credit card numbers on its site from potential backers:

In a newer development, GameZone had individuals who were backing their campaigns visit their website to try to calculate shipping. In order to do this, for unexplained reasons, credit card numbers were required. Now, people on BoardGameGeek and other websites are reporting that their credit cards are being charged for shipping, and in some cases for the game itself even though it does not actually exist yet. If this is indeed true, it is another piece in the puzzle.

At this point, the entire situation is starting to scare off potential funders, echoed by Watanabe's conclusion:

Well, HeroQuest is probably even further from being developed, but now we see that GameZone may be openly battling Moon Design over the trademark for the game. GameZone seems determined to be able to make an anniversary edition of the game, but they also seem to not care about the laws governing intellectual property in several regions of the world. Until someone comes along to officially clear things up, no matter how much you want to see a new edition of HeroQuest, your best, and safest, bet is to stay well away from any crowd-funding attempts from GameZone or anyone affiliated with them. As always in the world of Kickstarter and sites like it, do your research before you pledge.

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