In the past, there have been cases where people have attempted to use the law to manipulate and control people’s choices. From the recent case of the hoverboard company raided at CES only to then have the case dropped before it appeared at court, we can see that some companies may be using the very same law we rely on to protect us against their competitors. This was something Jordan Gwyther found out the hard way when he opened up the website Larping.org.
Larping, short for live-action role playing, is an event where people dress up to a theme and act out battles or events in character. From a medieval village (with modern day toilets) to a battle scene between elves and knights, larping is enjoyed by hundreds. Gwyther founded larping.org to act as a communications hub for larping fans everywhere, with the ability to talk to other LARPers and find events the site proved popular. Gwyther started to use the site to sell popular items amongst LARPers, such as armour or latex/foam weapons.
In order to sell the foam arrows, Gwyther imports them from a german company, selling them on in the U.S. for just over $2,000. That was until Global Archery, an Indiana-based company who also sell foam arrows under the name Archery tag, decided to sue Gwyther for patent and trademark infringement.
Gwyther went to court only to find that Global Archery bragged about having a $150,000 budget for the litigation, a fund that father of two Gwyther could not match without help. In order to combat the lawsuit, Gwyther started up a GoFundMe campaign titled “Save LARP Archery”. Seems this didn’t go down too well either as Global Archery have now requested that his pleas for help be silenced in the form of a restraining order.
The restraining order states that Gwyther would have to “cease issuing any press releases, advertisements, letters, promotional materials, articles, and oral or other written statements including posts on social media sites such as Gofundme, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, that falsely… imply that this action was initiated and is being prosecuted to interfere with the general public’s ability to engage in live action role playing (LARP)”. The reason for this clause is that in his video for the GoFundMe Campaign, Gwyther explains that if the lawsuit is accepted, foam arrows sold by distributors in the U.S. could be stopped by everyone but resellers of Global Archery’s products.
The end result has been that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has become involved. Known for protecting people;s rights when it comes to the law and technology, the EFF have come forward saying that “the first amendment guarantees that even patent owners are subject to the slings and arrows of public criticism”.