Pro Bono help from ASTC Member Benson Green helps a little guy stand up to a bully in Games Workshop v. Chapterhouse.
Benson Green is an active table top war game player in his spare time. A couple of years ago, he saw a post on an industry blog about Games Workshop Limited, one of the largest producers of table top wargames in the world, suing a Dallas based business called Chapterhouse Studios. He went onto Pacer and reviewed the early pleadings and was struck by what he perceived as the overreaching nature of the complaint. Games Workshop was asserting hundreds of copyright and trademark claims. Meanwhile, he learned that Chapterhouse Studios was really just a two-person company operating out of the living room of one of the owners, Nicholas Villacci. Nick and his partner were simply hobbyists who turned their passion into a garage business. Suddenly, they found themselves in a lawsuit claiming nearly half a million dollars filed in Chicago, nearly 1,000 miles away. Benson contacted Nick to wish him good luck and discovered that Chapterhouse didn’t even have an attorney. Games Workshop had made clear its intention of driving Chapterhouse Studios out of business, and the practical reality was that Chapterhouse would go out of business without representation.
Benson started calling friends in the intellectual property business asking for advice. They put him in touch with Lawyers for the Creative Arts, an organization that works to provide Pro Bono legal services to artists. LCA in Chicago was able to get put Chapterhouse Studios in touch with Winston and Strawn LLP, who agreed to accept the case Pro Bono, together with Chicago-based Marshall, Gerstein, and Borun LLP. Benson’s firm also agreed to work on the case pro bono and an outstanding team was formed. Now, Chapterhouse Studios had options and could stand toe to toe with the industry giant bent on its destruction.
Over the next two years Benson and his firm put in over 1,000 hours working on the case. As the trial grew closer he provided comprehensive trial strategy support, conducted a jury research with generous assistance from Savitz Field and Focus in Chicago, was involved in jury selection and assisted counsel throughout the trial. At the end of a two week trial Chapterhouse had defeated 111 of the 160 copyright infringement claims and 104 trademark infringement claims. More importantly, the jury gave both companies firm guidance on what the rules would be going forward. Chapterhouse Studios now knows what it can and cannot do and Games Workshops knows that it cannot bully small companies with frivolous claims.
For Benson, helping a small business stand up to an industry bully was rewarding enough. Creating ground rules to help other small businesses was a bonus. The case also provided valuable experience for both Benson and the attorneys involved in the years-long litigation. Benson gained valuable experience in a new area of the law and many of the lawyers involved had their first experience working with trial consultants. It clearly will not be the last time they do. Chapterhouse Studios, Winston and Strawn, the ASTC, and the trial consulting profession in general all benefited from Benson taking that first step and wishing well to a little guy in trouble.
Benson is a consultant with Douglas Green Associates and emphasizes the development and implementation if Organization Narrative into trial strategy. For more information on the case, see the following article on Winston and Stawn’s website. Benson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to vist Winston & Strawn LLP.