FYI: TSR did not try to trademark “Nazi”

There’s an urban legend that TSR tried to trademark the word “Nazi.” That’s not actually true. Here’s the real story, as best I remember it. Any other TSR people who have a better recollection, feel free to chip in.

Back in the 80s when TSR had a license from Lucasfilm to make Indiana Jones games, they released a game that had a bunch of square cardboard “chits” … little square tokens with pictures on them. You’d have a chit for Indy, a chit for Sallah, and many chits representing bad guys. At least one of the chits was of a Nazi. Because it was the 80s, everyone was trademark-happy, sticking TM on everything you could, even if it made no sense. If you look at the Marvel Super Heroes game, even in the body text you’d see Spider-Man(TM), Captain America(TM), the Hulk(TM), and so on.

So this Nazi chit had a drawing of a Nazi and the word Nazi. And the word Nazi had a TM and an asterisk on it. The legal line on the chit card (the big square cardboard that you’d pop the chits out of) says [i]”NAZI(TM)*; (TM) & (C) LFL 1984; *trademarks of Lucasfilm, Ltd. used under authorization.”[/i]

So the trademark notice was there at the insistence of Lucasfilm. And it’s important to point out that the trademark was not for the [b]word[/b] “Nazi” (which is untrademarkable), it was for the [b]specific illustration of that Nazi character[/b].

So TSR never tried to trademark “Nazi.”


20 thoughts on “FYI: TSR did not try to trademark “Nazi”

      • I still think my favorite Marvel legal story came from Jeff Grubb. He wondered often if anyone actually ever read the long, tortured lists of trademarks et al in the front of products, so one day early in the MSH line, he typed: “…. are properties and trademarks of Marvel Comics and cannot be used without permission or Hulk will Smash!”

        The note back from Marvel (and TSR’s legal dept) was “Cute. Cut it out.”

        who learned as the MSH guy that Marvel and DC each own “super-hero” and “superhero” as alleged trademarks…but doubts that’d ever hold up in court…..

      • And actually the reason for the TMs on each of those standups?

        Since the item could be separated from its parent product (i.e. cut out and made independent), it HAD to carry the legal mark on it.

        This is the logic that was drummed into me back in 1990-1992 when I was de facto Marvel Guy (though Karen was the only one who could allegedly make management decisions on it).

  1. But no, Sean. You’re wrong. I was in my local game store, and this one guy said it once, and the store owner agreed, and like, totally knew a guy who had talked to a guy at TSR once, and he said that TSR tried to copyright Nazis so that only they can use Nazis in games, but they were so stupid that they didn’t know anything about copyright law, but my friend once took a law class and even though he had to drop out before completing the class, he totally knew that TSR couldn’t copyright that because it was like a real thing from like history, but no one at TSR knew that because they were too busy trying to like, run all the other companies out of business, because TSR was the only one trying to make money when all the other companies were in it just for the love of the game, man. So that proves it.

    Oh, wait. I meant to say T$R. Go back and imagine I put those in.

  2. Sure, sure! The next thing you’re gonna do is tell us that the old TSR building WASN’T built like a giant 6-sider! I KNOW that’s true … I saw it in What’s New with Phil & Dixie!

  3. You know what, though, I wish someone had trademarked Nazi and all its stuff, just so they could send cease and decist letters to all the racist groups that uses their symbols and schtick. I mean, imagine it, you send the letters, they ignore it, you bankrupt them in court. Heck, it worked for the folks up in Idaho, although that was due to some shootings and beatings, but you get the idea.

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