A lot of people want more details about what is going on, so here is everything I know:
First of all, I love Bethesda. I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is.
About half a year ago, our lawyers recommended us to register “Minecraft” as a trademark, so we did. I had voted against it initially, but we did it anyway. Better safe than sorry, and all that. At the same time, we also applied for “Scrolls”, the new game we’re working on. We knew of no similarly named games, and we had even googled it to make sure. I’m not even sure if you CAN trademark individual words, like “Scrolls”, but we sent in the application anyway.
(Disclosure: We’ve enforced the trademark for Minecraft once, when there was a minecraft clone on iOS, using our name. People were emailing me saying our iOS version was buggy and bad, so we asked them to change the name of their game, and they did.)
A while later, out of the blue, we got contacted by Bethesda’s lawyers. They wanted to know more about the “Scrolls” trademark we were applying for, and claimed it conflicted with their existing trademark “The Elder Scrolls”. I agree that the word “Scrolls” is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image.
The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary. We looked things up and realized they didn’t have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games. We suggested a compromise where we’d agree to never put any words in front of “Scrolls”, and instead call sequels and other things something along the lines of “Scrolls - The Banana Expansion”. I’m not sure if they ever got back to us with a reply to this.
Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started.
I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark. I sincerely hope Bethesda isn’t pulling a Tim Langdell.