The Return of Spots the Space Marine

Last night many of you alerted me to the reappearance of the e-book edition of Spots the Space Marine on Amazon. I hope you’ll join me in applauding Amazon’s decision to reinstate the book. Amazon and other major retailers have given me wonderful opportunities as an independent author, not just in e-books but in print and audiobooks. The stories I’ve sold to magazines launched my writing career but it’s the sales I make from these outlets that allow me to buy food for my family.

I cannot say enough good things about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who have been enthusiastic, supportive and productive. They pursued my case with passion and principle and are standing by should any more developments necessitate their aid. Many of you have asked if you can help me pay my legal costs; I would encourage you to donate to the EFF to help support their good work.

At this point my defense is done unless legal action develops in response to the reinstatement of Spots. But this is one small battle in a long war, and we must continue to protect common terms by refusing to reshape our creations to placate over-zealous legal teams. If you’ve run afoul of this sort of behavior, you are not alone, and help is out there. My experience proves it.

I continue to be gravely concerned by the lack of due process shown me. There’s a tradition of facing one’s accuser, and one of the worst parts of this ordeal was having no petition, no appeal, no right to defend myself and point out the absurdity of the claim against me. It seems that some may take advantage of this for a cheap legal ride, damaging someone’s income and reputation simply by firing off an email. This is wrong and nothing about Spots’ outcome will prevent it from happening again. I’m not sure how a change in that process might be effected, but until that happens we’ll have to continue to stand together.

On a personal note, I want to tell you what an unbelievable few days it’s been. When I first received the take-down notice from Amazon, I was stunned—a single email seemed to imbue the world with a formless menace. For most of two months I’ve been walking with hunched shoulders, fighting a sort of numb disbelief. When I made my post on Tuesday I didn’t know what to expect and was on the verge of surrender. What happened instead has reaffirmed my faith in the benevolence and decency of people everywhere.

I tell my daughter that there’s magic in the world and that human beings are responsible for creating it. You all have proved that decisively. I’ll never forget the past few days, and for that I and my family thank you earnestly from the depths of our hearts.

Space marines forever!

Edit: By request, a link to the book on Amazon, and Smashwords for other e-book formats.

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  1. Consider this a donation made to the EFF. Congrats to you, to the EFF, and to all the folks who raised the alarm.

  2. I might also suggest another way to help would be to check with local/school libraries to see if they do not have copies of Heinlein, E.E. Smith, etc. on the shelves, and then see if they would like some. (Though please ask first — they might not have the room.) Or, when someone is holding a drive for book donations, donate the classic sci-fi (or the trope starters, if you will.) Or, if you have a waiting area, stock it with the classics for reading material.* **

    The attempt to take a classic trope and trademark it — make it less generic — can only work if the heritage is obscured or buried. Keeping the classics kicking around and available for the next generation cannot hurt. If the next generation only grows up with the GW version of space marines, then GW will have won.

    (Of course, nothing stops GW from donating a bunch of their books to libraries, too, mind you. However, hopefully we could ensure that the libraries have *all* space marines, regardless.)

    *If someone is feeling really ornery, they could publish a non-fiction article on the evolution of the space marine trope from its origins to all the current incarnations. Given all the media attention, some places might be interested in having a ‘What is a space marine?’ primer to show to readers, after all.

    **Having local libraries stocked with Spots the Space Marine would amuse me to no end, of course.

  3. Best news to start off this weekend! Congrats, to both you, and everyone who’s helped make this victory possible.

  4. Be aware, GW are calling you a liar on their facebook page (not in so many words, but that meaning has been taken up by fans of theirs in the comment thread).

  5. i’m a big girl and can go to Amazon and search for your book – but for others like me [i found out about this because of Scalzi, FYI] who are wanting to buy the book to show *YOU* support [my donation already made. twice a year, all i can do, i am poor] a link might be nice, na da?

    and – i didn’t say in my other comment – THANK YOU for being willing to fight. i grew up on Heinlein and the other classics, and GW trying to deny those classics? that’s just… i mean… GAH! they going to try and make every OTHER writer stop using the term, of have their books removed? sometimes, i truly wonder about the SANITY of people, i do.

  6. You should find out if you can get some form of declaratory relief – you have the world’s attention now and offers of pro bono representation now – that help may not be available two or three years from now if GW comes back with a lawsuit or another take down notice.

  7. An Update of Sorts « Jason Cordova's Website - pingback on February 9, 2013 at 3:05 am
  8. I live in the UK and I am very surprised they were allowed to trademark ‘space marine’ on the basis that it is made from common words. They usually grant a trademark for something like this as long as it is displayed in a stylised way i.e like a logo otherwise the trademark doesn’t apply. The UK is the place to take them on as they will have to pay your costs when they lose the case unlike the USA and Canada.

    All the best,


    • But as far as I’m aware, Our Host hasn’t had action taken against her in the UK yet or in respect of GW’s UK or European trade marks.

      She could potentially bring a claim in an English court against GW to either have its local trade marks revoked or for a declaration that her use of ‘Space Marine’ does not infringe them, but then the costs point you mention could count against her – if she lost, she would have to pay GW’s legal bill as well as hers.

  9. I’m so happy for you! I’m glad that the support the interwebs have shown you has lifted your spirits when you were so low.

    And don’t worry about what GW writes on their facebook page, there’s already tons of comments scolding them. Their mistake for not keeping their mouths shut!

    • Keeping their mouths shut was half the problem. They need to make a formal public notice that they have no claim to “Space Marine”. Most of their trademarked terms are invalid, they even tried to make claim to Elf and Dwarf (they have a trademark disclaimer claiming sole rights to all the races in their Bloodbowl game. This includes Elves, Dwarves and even Vampires)

  10. Games Workshop have owned the trademark to the term ‘Space Marine’ since 1995 I’m not surprised they kicked up a fuss about it, it’s a common term which immediatly makes you think of GW. I have no grounds upon which to judge the writing itself, but I can say I will not read it until the writer comes up with a more original term for the characters in his book.

    • it’s a common term which immediatly makes you think of GW

      Only if you happen to know about Warhammer 40k. It’s too late to make a meaningful poll among my friends as they already know about the issue, but I’m quite certain that some of them would have thought of Starcraft and Aliens first (yes, these are actually Confederate and Colonial Marines respectively, but that’s not the point).

      There’s a risk to basing your brand on generic or descriptive terms, and GW has no one to blame except themselves.

    • absolute rubbish steve cornish – you may be shocked to realise that for GW being the titan (go on, bite) in the gaming world, it’s still tiny in the real world. these days you say space marine people might think of the dudes in gears of war, or halo, or starcraft. older folks may think of aliens or even heinlein. gw is niche still – more probably know of space marines from the dawn of war computer games than the table-top. and i’m a gw gamer, been playing off and on since rogue trader in the late 80s. love me some horus heresy. own the original ian watson w40k space marine novel. which features three boys (i might add) from necromunda – no girlies. they join the imperial fists and fight tyranids – good book. better than a lot of black library stuff released these days. gw might (might) have a claim against someone using adeptus astartes, or writing about gw-style marines (7′ tall genetically altered male super-humans in powered armour and carrying bolt guns) – but this author didn’t! her character is female for a start (which immediately blows your comment into the void). it’s a generic descriptive term for (get this) a force of soldiers, serving on a ship, in space. you know, like the real usa has US marines, or the uk has the royal marines? but in space. :oops:

    • I first read about space marines from RA Heinlein in 1969, I believe it was published in the 50’s. Later I read Doc Smith published earlier than that. If you have not read these author’s you are in for a treat, look them up.

      I have looked into war hammer but prefer GEV and a few other Steve Jackson games.

  11. I just have order my Spots the Space Marine exemplar.

    As we like to say in France : “Au plaisir !”

  12. Dr Simon Newman

    Congratulations, I have just ordered a hardcopy of your book from to show support and because it looks quite interesting. :grin:
    You may be interested to know that GW’s UK & EU Space Marine TM registrations appear to be potentially invalidly registered inasmuch as either the term is non-distinctive of, or may serve in trade to designate characteristics of, certain goods – books about space marines, figures of space marines, etc; although a UK court would have to decide if it might have acquired distinctive character through use. The relevant UK law is section 3(1) TMA 1994 – Of course GW does not appear to possess a relevant TM under US law, making their action much more incredible.

    Anyway, well done and good luck!

    Dr Simon Newman
    Course Leader, LLM International Commercial Law
    University of Westminster

  13. Congratulations. Like many thousands of right-thinking people around the globe, I was incensed to hear about GW’s bully-boy tactics. It’s one thing to protect themselves from someone trying to pass off goods or writing pertaining directly to their products or depriving them of legitimate income, quite another to claim copyright over common language, a modern tendency amongst corporate legal teams that I deplore.

    I’m the editor of a wargaming magazine and I shall mention your case in my editorial, whilst also taking the most direct action I can to support you by buying a copy of your book.

    I was delighted to see the phenomenal level of support you received on Twitter, Facebook and on dozens of forums, proof if it were needed that a keen sense of justice is alive and well.

    Good luck to you and yours.

    Henry Hyde
    Editor, Battlegames

  14. I did as I suspect many others have done. I sent an e-mail to GW and in very polite tone explained to them that I would have to boycott their products, and if anyone asked me why, I would explain the reasons.

    I can’t understand how a company believe this would help their sales. They know they must be wrong.

    I am now heading out to purchase the book I have defended. I did not know about it before this, but now my interest is peaked. :D


  15. Excellent news! I’m very happy for you.

    It’s ironic really that, due to their bullying, Games Workshop have lost popularity while you and your book have earned popularity.

    Really happy for you.

  16. If nothing else you are a master of media manipulation and self promotion, congrats :???:

  17. Congratulations!!! Finally I story where the little guy wins out over the giant corporate bully!
    The ironic thing is that “Spots the Space Marine” will likely get a huge boost in sales as a result of this controversy while GW’s rep is definitely taking damage.

  18. Pleased you found a resolution to your problem. But I have to ask how do you feel that people are demanding a boycott of all GW products in you name?

    Very unlikely any boycott of GW will have any affect on whatever person started off this whole thing! Legal people get paid either way.

    But boycott WILL directly affect earnings of all the other staff & freelance creators working for GW. artists, sculptors & writers like you. Who probably take your side in all this.

    Evereyone blames all of GW for the actions of maybe one or two people?

    • I have enjoyed some of the miniatures but we will move on to other sources. A company that does business like this will not get my $. If the creative people agree maybe they will move to another company. I have this book on order and look forward to it.

  19. See, this is why the chaos marines rein supreme. For it is only the self-righteous space marine who will be guided by his materialism to fall under the double-edged admiration of a baby copycat. Oh, the injustice! :grin:

  20. Kevin who is Kevin

    Well GW seems to have backed off. Well done and congratulations on the birth of your first internet meme. You do have to wonder if their lawyer had actually read any ad (as opposed to researching the legal basis) and why the company, which must surely know better unless the beancounters have completely taken over, allowed this to continue. Of course they do have “form” in this area. Also sucks to Amazon for allowing this spurious claim to found a takedown action.

    Lesson for the future – reach out! You should not have waited two months from the initial letter to post about it. The sf community is technologically savvy and engaged. Authors are seeing the possibilities and threats from the emerging ebook grow exponentially as the market explodes and F/SF
    is right at the forefront . We are all interested and concerned, and can supported you directly through sales and donations and indirectly through reposts and messages/comments.

  21. I was pretty enraged with GW’s actions on this. However, I do think after looking into the relevant information, the key was the ‘common law trademark’ that GW was claiming to be attempting to protect, and presumably the issue was the title “Spots the Space Marine” and not the fact that she was a space marine.

    Common Law Trademarks in the USA allow the defense of an _unregistered_ trademark that are still in use. This eliminates any consideration of what class registered trademarks have been registered under, or what registration has occured in the European Union. We’re strictly talking about the USA, and a trademark that has been unregistered.

    However, it ALSO has been established that titles cannot be trademarked unless in the form of a series like “Harry Potter and…” or the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, or “… for Dummies” books.

    GW doesn’t have a Space Marine series (they have a Horus Heresy series though).

    And that’s why the trademark claim fails.

    Not that this excuses GW. They certainly still aren’t very clear in their mea culpa on Facebook.

    • being a slight pedant they do have a novel called Space Marine form the 90s (its on my bookshelf, very good) and relatviely recently they have a Space Marine Battles novel series that describes historic campaigns in the (imaginary) setting. otherwise i totally agree with you, the term is surely far too generic in sci-fi etc. for them to have a hope of defending their claim – they simply didn’t think anyone would fight them / be able to afford to do so. saddens me as a gw gamer. i’ve painted little black bands on my blood angels space marines for the shame :sad:

  22. I’ve played Warhammer 40 000 for 13 years and own two space marine armies. I have no problem with GW protecting themselves against for-profit infringement of their IP without their permission, I find the idea of copyrighting a genre idea stupid and obscene. Especially when the idea and phrase pre-dates their company. Now if Spots had appeared to be about Games Workshop space marines (very distinct from generic “marines in space”) I would support them. But this has nothing to do with Games Workshop’s IP.

    Despite being a huge GW fanboy I can’t support a company doing something this unethical. Time to find a new company to buy toys from. I’ve heard good things about Firestorm Armada, apparently it’s everything Battlefleet Gothic should have been.

  23. @Astrovik – They’re a publicly listed corporation that chose to seek to harm an individual’s livelihood with a spurious IP claim. This is their long-standing corporate policy, which they have publicly defended, not the action of some rogue attorney. If the “staff & freelance creators working for GW; artists, sculptors & writers” have high moral scruples then they will choose not to work for such an entity. Likewise investors will not hold shares in such a company, and wargamers will not buy their products.

  24. I had no idea there was a product called Space Marine till I read about this story!
    It would seem this product has nothing to do with this book as mentioned above.
    A Space Marine to me describes some sort of soldier in space travelling by means of a ship through Space (compare soldier on earth travelling by ship over earths surface = A Marine)
    It is a generic term.

    I am concerned that there are people who because thay cannot find something on google in a particular context, do not believe that it exists in another way.
    I am concerned that I cannot use common words arranged in a particular way to describe a person or event withour someone telling me they own the phrase and I cannot do so.
    What happened to free speech?
    This has wide implications: for ALL of us.
    This is most insidious and this case is an example of this happening in practice.

    Kindly stop mis-appropriating my language!

  25. :mad: I had no idea there was a product called Space Marine till I read about this story!
    It would seem this product has nothing to do with this book as mentioned above.
    A Space Marine to me describes some sort of soldier in space travelling by means of a ship through Space (compare soldier on earth travelling by ship over earths surface = A Marine)
    It is a generic term.

    I am concerned that there are people who because thay cannot find something on google in a particular context, do not believe that it exists in another context.
    I am concerned that I cannot use common words arranged in a particular way to describe a person or event withour someone telling me they own the phrase and I cannot do so.
    What happened to free speech?
    This has wide implications: for ALL of us.

    This is most insidious and this case is an example of this happening in practice.

    Kindly stop mis-appropriating my language!

  26. hhhmm, kinda of understand your frustration but to me for nearly 30 years now Space Marines has meant Warhammer 40K and I was pretty effed off when I bought something labelled as Space Marines and it turned out to be some crude crap

    • So sad for you. Very limited life apparently. I was reading about space marines as a teenager, before GW ever even existed. And then there are the more recent versions, like John Ringo’s Looking Glass series.

      • lol clearly not as old as you then as GW started the year before I was born and it took another 12 years for W40K to come along but the point I’m making is that since the launch GW has done a pretty good job at making the Space Marines a recognisable brand in it’s own right with games (table and pc) and books outside of the W40K branding

        • Not really, no. “Gaunt’s Ghosts” I’ve heard of. I’ve not heard anything about a GW “Space Marine” brand book series. To the vast majority of the sf reading and wargaming population, space marine is a generic term. FWIW to the extent I have any gaming association with the term it would be the Imperial Space Marines of the Traveller RPG’s Third Imperium, which predates WH40K by around ten years. Obviously some GW fans may think first of GW’s religious fanatic Space Marines, but the term itself is generic and has no particular connection to GW’s quasi-feudal knights templar types.

          • agree with dr newman here – in strict (imaginary) setting terms they are called Space Marines by the (ignorant) general populace – their actual title is the Adeptus Astartes (legions or chapters usually depending on time period). i could go into work tomorrow and ask ‘what is a space marine?’ – i’d get a lot of odd looks, a few would describe old sci-fi books and films to me, couple might work it ous as marines in space there’s a film title!) and AFAIK one other guy would say w40k cos he’s a gamer. so probably <5% in a very crude empirical test there. :shock:

  27. Love this one. Was just searching Smashwords for SPOTS(because I prefer PDF format)and found a brand new book with Space Marine in the title. Here’s the link for the book
    And here’s the link for the post the author put on his blog about the book and why he wrote it.

    Kind of similar to my thought of starting a campaign to have every author that is willing to write sci-fi, write a book with space marines in it. May still do that soon just to keep the news fresh in people’s minds.

  28. Unqualified Geeks | Episode 2 – Space Marines! - pingback on February 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm
  29. This whole thing reminds me of the story of Bethesda Softworks vs. a small Swedish indie game developer (, where an industri behemoth took on a one-man-company whose only “crime” was to title an upcoming indie game “Scrolls”. The evil-ish lawyers that Bethesda employ then thought that regular dumb customers would confuse “Scrolls” with something from their specific franchise of “The Elder Scrolls” (computer game series)… Oh dear.

    If anything one would think that companies ought to be embarrassed to have their legal division abuse and bully others.

    Sometimes giants need to hear a little voice that reminds them that they don’t roam the world alone, even though they sometimes act precisely like that.

    • Hardly small. Notch has more money than almost any other developer individually at this moment, with only Gabe Newell beating him.

  30. That is great news.

    I would advise however, that you continue with legal council, researching the precedents of Tradmark terms and phrases vs common usage. Xerox, for instance, has insisted dealers and resellers refer to their products as photo copiers and not “Xerox machines” since they first began selling them. Games Workshop however, has not bothered to combat common use of the term “Space Marine” since they first created WH40K over thirty years ago. There should be dozens if not hundreds of examples of Space Marines going unchallenged in other publications.

    Good luck, and congratulations!

  31. I think the only way the GW Space Marine marks are likely to be declared invalid is if GW actually sued someone for using them and it went to a court decision; and the EU/OHIM mark would have to be dealt with at EU level. They could (and really should) have been challenged by other companies when the applications were made to register them, but most games companies are too small to be thinking about that sort of thing.

  32. Xerox was a distinctive mark that became in danger of becoming generic. Space Marine was always a generic descriptive term for space-navy soldiers, never distinctive, so there’s a difference.

  33. I’m glad to see that sense seems to be prevailing in this. GW’s approach seems even more extreme and petty when you consider their appropriation of Mr Moorcock’s ideas regarding chaos (and the symbol) in the not too distant past…and I do like Michael’s definition of “flattery”.

    Good luck with the fight!

  34. Go Spots the Space Marine. I’m glad the book is back online.

  35. Hi,
    Just wanted to say I’m glad you were able to get this resolved. GW have been slowly transforming into a behemoth of corporate greed, a far cry from the hobby-centric company I once knew and loved. This has been the final push I needed to stop supporting them financially – the thought that the money that I’ve been giving them all these years has been used to bully people such as yourself nauseates me. I’m sorry.

  36. Shows what we can do when we stick together and push back.

    Your books look interesting. I’m going to check them out.

  37. Glad to see that you finally got your book on sale!

    Look on the bright side from all this madness, this was great advertising!

  38. Where is the best place (for you) for us to purchase this book?


  39. Seriously, the word “Space Marine” isn’t as specific as say “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings”. I don’t even understand why or how anyone would agree with GW in bullying Mrs. Hogarth. I mean honestly… :mad:

    I think I’ll check out Spots one of these days if I have time. Besides, she seems better sport than most Astartes and better on the eyes. :twisted:

    I’m web fiction writer too and if GW wants copyright infringement I’LL give them copyright infringement! :evil:


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