Third-Party Accessories and Stonemaier Games

19 July 2018

For me, perhaps the most surprising aspect of Scythe’s success has been the sheer amount of complementary accessories other companies have created for it. There are custom meeples and inserts and 3D printed tokens and promo coins and t-shirts and digital apps…the list goes on and on.

I love that Scythe has inspired this level of creativity from companies around the world. I also love the positive impact these accessories have had on fans of Scythe–in addition to official accessories, promos, and digital games published or licensed by Stonemaier Games, they have a wealth of third-party options to choose from if they want to enhance their game.

Stonemaier Games doesn’t get a single cent from sales of third-party accessories. This is on purpose, as it frees me to say “no” in a number of ways:

  • No special treatment. There are expectations associated with an exchange of money. If I accept a royalty, you might expect me to promote your product or send you files that others don’t have access to.
  • No exclusivity. Royalty/licensing agreements often involve exclusivity, but I want to see–and share–a broad range of creativity from a number of different companies. I think open-market competition is a good thing.
  • No time spent. I just want to run Stonemaier Games–I don’t want to spend my time advising another company as to whether or not their accessory looks good, nor do I want to serve as their personal marketing consultant.
  • No price hikes. If Stonemaier Games doesn’t take a royalty, in theory, that should allow for the third-party company to keep the price lower, which is good for Scythe fans.

Is this the only way with third-party accessory companies? Of course not. I’m sure there are publishers out there who seek royalties in a way that works for their fans, their time, and the accessory companies. It’s just not the path I’ve chosen for Stonemaier Games.

However, I’ve learned the hard way that we need to have some rules in place for third-party accessory companies. The “hard way” is that sometimes these third-party companies don’t make it clear that the accessory isn’t an official Stonemaier product. Usually this results in mild, harmless confusion. But there are occasions where the marketing message from those companies is in direct opposition to Stonemaier’s core philosophies, and the confusion becomes a bigger problem.

So I created a simple agreement for third-party accessory companies to sign. This ensures we’re on the same page about what they can and can’t do, as well as the repercussions if they violate the agreement (which are there as a deterrent–I hope never to enforce them).

I’ll paste the entirety of that agreement below so you can see how we do it. You’re welcome to use and tweak this template for your company.

***

Unofficial Accessory License Agreement

This Agreement is made as between Stonemaier LLC (“Stonemaier”) and ????? (“Licensee”) (each a “Party” and collectively, “Parties”).

  1. Grant of License
    • Stonemaier’s Products and Trademarks. Stonemaier is the creator and owner of all rights to several games and other products (the “Products”), as well as a number of valuable trademarks, both registered and unregistered, related to Stonemaier and the Products (the “Trademarks”).
    • License Grant. Stonemaier grants to Licensee the limited right to develop, sell, and distribute accessories for use by consumers in conjunction with the Products (the “Accessories”).
    • The above license is subject to the following limitations:
      • Trademark UsageLicensee-generated accessories may use publicly available icons (the artist must be credited). Advertisements may use box images, logos/wordmarks, and icons.
      • No Consultancy or Assistance – Stonemaier will not assist in the creation of the Product. Licensee may inquire as to whether their presentation of the Product is meeting these guidelines, but they may not ask for Stonemaier’s private files, ideas, suggestions, or opinions.
      • No Sponsorship or Affiliation – At no point during the advertisement, sale, or distribution of the accessories may Licensee, either directly or indirectly, indicate that the Accessories are endorsed by, sponsored by, or affiliated with Stonemaier. Licensee may ask Stonemaier to add a link to their website but not to endorse or promote the accessories.
      • Disclaimer Required – Licensee will include the following disclaimer on all advertising materials and on the packaging of the accessories themselves: “Neither [Licensee Name] or [Accessory Name] are sponsored by or affiliated with Stonemaier Games.” A truncated version of this is permitted: “Not an Official Stonemaier Games Product.”
    • Ownership and Validity. Licensee acknowledges that Stonemaier is the sole and exclusive owner of the entire right, title, and interest (including all accompanying goodwill) in and to the Trademarks. Licensee agrees not to attack the validity of any of the Trademarks at any time.
  2. Infringement
    • Remedies: Licensee acknowledges that Stonemaier is entitled to injunctive or other equitable relief, as well as a 20% royalty on revenue of the Products, in the event of any infringement by Licensee. Licensee may request approval from Stonemaier in advance to avoid any violations.
    • Indemnity: Licensee will defend, indemnify and hold Stonemaier harmless from and against any and all loss, liability, claims, suits, actions, proceedings, judgments, awards, damages and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) that they may incur by reason of the Licensee’s manufacture, use, sale, advertising or distribution of the Accessories.
    • Governing Law. Any dispute arising under or in connection with this Agreement will be governed by the law of the State of Missouri and be resolved in the state or federal courts of Missouri. The parties consent to the jurisdiction of such courts.

***

What do you think about our approach to third-party accessories?

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17 Comments on “Third-Party Accessories and Stonemaier Games

  1. I like this approach. It frees up everyone on both sides of the agreement, protecting Stonmaier’s IP and giving the third party freedom to produce products they think will be useful. Your reasons for not taking a more active role in those third-party products are solid.

  2. I like it, though IANAL. There is a type though:

    “Licensee may ask Stonemaier add a link…”

    I assume you missed a “to” :) I wouldn’t mention it, but being a legal document…

  3. I think it’s great how much you support your fans and the Scythe community. This sort of reminds me how Stephen King allows student filmmakers to create films of any of his short stories for only $1. He gets more exposure (even though he doesn’t really need it), and the filmmakers get a chance to play around in the world of an esteemed writer.

    https://www.stephenking.com/dollarbabies.php

  4. Always a pillar of the game community. Thanks for everything you do for the hobby (and business) of board games, Jamey!

  5. The most common example I can think of, using a third party product, is mods for popular games like Skyrim or World of Warcraft. Users are able to select and choose the options they prefer to enhance ones personal gaming experience. Installing the mod is a personal decision, and the user is free to uninstall at any time. Blizzard has incorporate many of these mods into their base code eliminating the need to use the mod as it now provides a redundant user experience. There are many other examples of digital content being provided to enhance a user’s gaming experience and the decision by the gaming company to encourage individual contribution has drastically increased.

    Setting licensing or legal guidelines seems necessary to clearly define the arrangement between your company and the third parties providing the gaming mod. Accepting, encouraging, and establishing guidelines is a very rational approach.

  6. I think you are being more than generous and I hope that people creating third party products respect your, “Unofficial Accessory License Agreement”.

    I see so many Kickstarter projects and Etsy store items (enamel pins, art books, prints and calendars, plus other items) that just blatantly use art or modify it slightly by poorly redrawing it and coloring it, not only without caring one bit that they are doing it, but actually feel they have the right to, since the artist/company they are ripping off isn’t currently making the items.

    They like to call it fan art, but they know very well, that once it’s intentionally being reproduced and multiples are being sold as a product, it’s no longer “fan art”.

    Many times, the person marketing these items just blanks out the face or creates a silhouette of the item, with a link to the actual photo / mock-up of the product or similar ones they have on sale already. But most of the ones I’ve come across don’t.

  7. If someone such as I would be interested in designing new game board concepts would that also be something SMG would welcome?

  8. Would designing new boardgame templates also fall under this agreement Jamey?

    I really like scythe but think that a customisable gameboard design (ala Catan, Ti4 etc.) could add immense value.

    I’d like to give it a go.

  9. Does this mean anyone that signs this can create derivative works that specifically are called Third Party Unofficial Accessory for whatever title in the Stonemeier arsenal, as long as they respect the underlying agreement?

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