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Feedback @Asset Store Team: What exactly did I violate?

Discussion in 'Assets and Asset Store' started by Rowlan, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Dear Asset Store Team,

    TL;DR
    : I purchased an asset which looked promising, yet didn't seem to go anywhere in terms of bugfixing and updates and so I dropped it quickly and asked for a refund shortly after purchase, was refused to get one. Unity created their Terrain Tools. I made a mixer for their Height Tool, Bridge Tool, Paint Tool, etc and named it Path Paint Tool. Because for one you can drag the Bridge Tool to create paths and you can paint textures on it simultaneously. Also smoothing and such. All in 1 stroke instead of doing several strokes one after each other. You can do more with it now, might as well call it Terrain Tools Mixer, but initially it was known as Path Paint Tool, so I left it at that.

    Now the publisher of the asset claims to have a Trademark - which he didn't show at the time of purchase. On whatever that TM is he still didn't disclose. But I got a pm by the publisher with content including "You are in breach of intellectual property rights and you are in breach of licences."

    Still unclear what exactly I was violating. Which IP and which license exactly? Name? An algorithm? Anything else?

    So I complained to the Asset Store team. The reply:

    Again, what am I violating exactly? And 2.8 is freely interpretated as someone saw fit. I never used any code of that asset, especially since it's closed source and comes as DLL.

    It's definitely not an "IP" to paint a path:




    etc

    So I complained again and the reply was:

    and yesterday my thread got deleted:

    path paint tool thread deleted alarm.png

    If I did violate asset store rules and terms, then please point me to exactly what I was violating. And proof that I was actually violating it, because someone claiming he has an IP on some trivial, common functionality doesn't make it so.

    If anyone violated that asset, then it's Unity. All my tool does is mix the Unity tools.

    The only conclusion I can draw now is that the main problem in 2.8 was that I purchased an asset on the Asset Store because I was led to believe that the asset would be worth it.

    Or is it something else? Please do show. Because this will simply have consequences for every other customer Unity has. Like nobody who purchases a terrain shader would ever be allowed to create another terrain shader.

    Also, the asset I purchased is per seat. So is someone else in my company allowed to distribute my free tool? Because nobody else bought it after they saw it.

    And if I violated the Unity Companion License, which my tool clearly declares, please do show what the problem is so that others can learn from this.

    And if it's any of the posts in the thread, I reported those. Unity didn't act on the report, so I had to reply. You can still see the entire thread on web archive. I even took down the asset from github, but since Unity didn't reply in reasonable time (took them 26 days) I put it up again. Because I didn't violate anything.

    Please do show me what I did wrong. In detail. Example: If someone has a trademark on heightmap modification by mouse dragging, please state so. This has an effect on several asset on this store.

    It would also be worth knowing where does it start and where does it end. My tool naturally supported multi terrain tiles because it comes naturally by architecture of the Unity Terrain Tools. The other asset still doesn't support multi terrain tiles. Is everyone now stuck with that tool or how can this be interpreted?

    By the way the publisher forbid me to use his tool. A tool that I paid money for. So am I not allowed to paint paths anymore with Unity?

    We can also go the other way: I added a Spline functionality initially and didn't make it public, only the idea was shown with a tab, I left that there. The publisher recently added modification via Spline. So did he violate my IP or how can we see it?

    Simply put: If I violated that "trademark" which I still have no information what exactly is trademarked, then so did Unity with the Terrain Tools. And if nobody is allowed to build on the Terrain Tools, then it would be also worth knowing for everyone. Hence this public post.

    Thank you for the clarification!
     
  2. TerraUnity

    TerraUnity

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    @Rowlan I already checked your Path Paint Tool and AFAIK, it is made on top of Unity's own open source GPU brushes for terrain sculpting, so if it's only a brand name change, then I recommend doing it and not falling through all these legal situations.

    A similar case happened to us a few months ago where Unity asked us to remove the word "Unity" from our previous brand name "TerraUnity" and we did it after negotiations. Not to mention that we are a Unity publisher since 2011 holding that brand name for all those years...

    Hope Unity gets back to you with a reasonable reply and everything will be cleared on both sides.
     
  3. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Thank you. I can do that of course and name it Terrain Tools Mixer. However the Asset Store Team never said that I have to do that, they just removed mine.

    But then again why should I rename mine if the publisher named it for a common functionality. It's rather the publisher has to change the name if he wants to trademark the name. And he has to register it.

    Another example would be Prefab Painter. Everyone who creates a tool for that would name it like that. Because that's what it does. So I called my free one YAPP - Yet Another Prefab Painter. If I'd want to trademark that, I'd have to use a dedicated name.

    Fun fact related to the name: In an Interview on 80.lv the publisher named his actually "Path Painter Tool" instead of Path Painter:

    https://80.lv/articles/review-path-painter-tool-for-unity/

    How about that? :rolleyes:

    If Unity tells me what exactly I am violating, I'd be happy to adapt. But they still didn't disclose this.

    And this situation has an effect on everyone who uses Unity or purchases anything from the Unity Asset Store. I hope someone from the Asset Store Team can enlighten everyone with reasonable and professional arguments.
     
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  4. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Here's another fact, that Unity already knows. But that's proof for everyone else that the asset didn't have a "TM" at least not until 2019-12-31:

    https://web.archive.org/web/2019123...-painter-127506/reviews?page=1&sort_by=recent

    You can clearly see how it would look like with a "TM":

    https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/path-painter-163352/reviews

    Moreover the TM got added after the former publisher and the new publisher parted early 2020.

    So can anyone just pick up an asset, put a "TM" to it and everyone elses asset will be deleted from the Unity ecosystem?

    ps: in case anyone asks why that link even exists: having my valid negative reviews deleted made me record other customers negative reviews, which turns out to come in handy now.
     
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  5. knxrb

    knxrb

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    To add to the above, there's no trademark for Path Painter registered for the US or UK, so it's not legally trademarked, their TM symbol means pretty much nothing currently.

    The legally binding symbol is the circle R: ®
    That one has been registered with a trademark authority and is legally recognised as trademarked.
     
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  6. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Just to avoid the possibility of the bad excuse with section 2.8, a few examples:

    If Terrain Composer 2 were to add a "TM" to their tools, that asset included terrain stamping years ago, would Unity have to remove the Stamp Tool from their Terrain Tools? That case would be not different in any way.

    Unreal Engine has BluePrints. UE4 is trademarked. Registered Trademarked! Now Unity tries to do the same. Is that not a violation? Acquiring Bolt doesn't give Unity a free ticket out of this.

    Unreal Engine has a non-destructive layer system for their terrain. Now Unity announces the Environment System which is basically the same. Is that not a violation then?

    I use Splines in my Prefab Painter to distribute prefabs, afaik the only asset yet for Unity. If I were to put a TM to it, would I be the only one on the Unity Asset Store who is allowed to have that?

    etc, I could go one if there's need for that, just let me know
     
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  7. NiallT

    NiallT

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    In many countries -- including the UK -- trademarks do not need to be registered to have legal force. If they're telling you it's a trademark problem, then the problem is the name, and a change of name with fix it.
     
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  8. StevenPicard

    StevenPicard

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    Reminds me of Microsoft threatening to sue a company for naming their version of Linux "Lindows". When it came out that Microsoft could actually lose in court because the word "Windows" is too generic Microsoft ended up digging into their deep pockets and paying the company not to use it. If they went to court it could have opened a can of worms Microsoft didn't want opened.

    I am not saying Path Painter couldn't get trademarked but you can't just simply slap "TM" at the end of some words and think that binds globally. It doesn't work that way. Who knows. Maybe they did pay the big bucks to register it globally.

    BTW, I'd just keep it on Github. Change the name if you want but if the code is your own then no one has say over it. I don't like bully tactics. If you did nothing wrong then don't get bullied. Unity owns their store so they can make their own decisions regarding what they're willing to sell but they don't own GitHub or your code (assuming it is.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  9. StevenPicard

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    That's odd. Are you thinking copyright? That's different. Trademarks do require registration pretty much everywhere. I know that from registering my company.
     
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  10. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Yes, they do and you have to pay money for that. You just can't e. g. take a common functionality like creating a path which has been available for thousands of years and get a trademark for that.

    I agree, Unity can do whatever they want. Even ban me without reason. But it won't be because I did something wrong, let alone violated something.

    Take e. g. the Erosion Brush asset. Unity added an Erosion tool. Or MicroSplat's Terrain Holes. Unity added terrain holes. So if either of those publishers randomly slap a "TM" to their assets, would Unity have to remove their own tools?

    Or to stay on the Unity platform in addition to the above UE4 links I just found that the height blending that Path Painter does was shown long before with Sentieri in public:



    So I still would like to see which "licenses" those are and who granted those and where they are written.
     
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  11. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Just fyi, I was made aware that discussing legal issues is against the forum rules. Apologies, I didn't know that. I report this thread myself, so if it gets deleted, it is because of me. Unity can feel free to give a statement though, which I'd be happy to know, as well as I think it might be interesting for others as well.
     
  12. NiallT

    NiallT

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    Ah. Anyway, the main thing is they said "trademark" and "trademark" only refers to names and logos, not functionality. I stand by my earlier statement -- just change the name and be done with it.

    Path Producer?
    Trailblazer Path Tool?
    Pathway Palette?
     
  13. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    It's not about the name. Quote from the publisher's pm to me:

     
  14. StevenPicard

    StevenPicard

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    If the code in your project is your own and not copied through decompiling Path Painter then this is not true. It's like stopping people from making a mouse trap. You are certainly entitled to make a better mouse trap and you are certainly entitled to make your own path painter even if it's been done before. Perhaps the crux of this, though, is that since you owned Path Painter they feel you decompiled the DLL and used their techniques? If that is the case then I am sure they would feel justified in stopping your code.
     
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  15. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    That's rather impossible to suggest. I made my code open source on github, was linked in the deleted thread. It can be clearly seen that it's just a simple wrapper around Unity's own Terrain Tools. Instead of annoying single strokes with tools like path, texture, erosion, smooth, etc, i. e. one after each other, you can simply stack the tools and have them executed in 1 single stroke with different brush sizes of every tool. Something I wish Unity would do on their own.

    I was actually working on a new free version with better stacking UI and brush size setting and offset

    mixer.gif

    But now that this happened I rather not waste my spare time for the creation of free content until I know what's up. I spent too much time providing free content to just have it simply removed without proper reason.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
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  16. StevenPicard

    StevenPicard

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    If this is the case then you did nothing wrong. In my opinion there should be no legal implications against you.
     
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  17. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    @Salvatore_Unity I was told that I need to tag someone of the Asset Store Leads, otherwise this might be unnoticed. Can I trouble you for a clarification? The ticket which has been ongoing for 2 months was resolved without compromise by Unity with

    and my thread deleted by saying I violate the terms, yet the publisher in question did as of now still not show any licenses nor trademark other than sticking a "TM" to the asset name. So going via support ticket requests didn't lead anywhere, however this incident applies to a lot of current and future users who try to push Unity and create content for the Unity Asset Store. Quick example:

    pp.png

    and then there's Prefab Painter on this forum and on GitHub. So if whoever comes first and slaps a "TM" next to the name for something common, yet without any proof gets the competition eliminated?

    Or is my violation really only that I led myself trick into believing that the asset was actually worth having? In that case it would be worth knowing for everyone before they purchase anything from the Asset Store, that they might run into problems years later.

    Thank you very much!
     
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  18. StevenPicard

    StevenPicard

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    Just my opinion, but I think it's easy enough to change your name. Path Painter should keep its name and I don't think it's worth the time to pursue challenging that. What I was concerned about is it sounds like they didn't like your code either which didn't make sense. I would simply change your name and put your code on Github. Challenging a trademark is not worth your time. Being able to add TM to a name exists for a reason but that shouldn't prevent legitimate competition. Heck, you could call it "Path Artist" or something similar (if no one else is using it) and be done with it. Throw a TM at the end of the name if you want.
     
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  19. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Thank you for your feedback, but it's not about the name. I'm supposedly violating licenses (multiple ones) according to the publisher. And according to the Unity ticket I'm violating because I supposedly purchased an asset and copied it and it's trademarked now. And I've been getting random threats by fanboys on discord like this last year, excerpt from a lengthy pm I got out of the blue:

    discord threat.jpg
    In addition to the recent cease & desist from the publisher which I got right after asking about the license. What's wrong with the question? Months later still no answer. And I don't feel like getting threatened by anyone. It looks more like some people think they own the Unity Asset Store. Everything I created for Unity and provided for free on this forum and on github is my own creation and I did that in my spare time.

    If all that was a waste of time on this platform, then someone make a clear statement and let everyone know in public. It's not gray. It's black and white. Either the publisher is right or I am. If the publisher is right, then this will have consequences for a lot of other publishers and customers. And that's why I can't accept the statement with which the ticket got resolved. But according to the ticket the publisher is right. I just want to make sure with this public thread that this is the way this platform works.
     
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  20. StevenPicard

    StevenPicard

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    I was not aware that the harassment was so bad. That's a real shame and very unjust. I definitely see why you feel the way you do. I wish you had money to contact a lawyer to find your legal standings so you could shut down these attacks.

    As far as fanboys stirring up trouble in the past I've seen that happen with other great asset developers like Jason Booth.
     
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  21. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    In addition to section 2.8 - which I'm supposedly violating, and that's the only reason I was given - it would be interesting from legal to know where's the difference in using an asset briefly vs watching a youtube video of the asset in action. Especially for a very basic asset with very limited functionality where everything is displayed on youtube. Is the purchase itself the problem or does section 2.8 define someone is using another publisher's code? I thought it would have been about the latter, but now I'm not so sure anymore.
     
  22. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    @AndrewAssetStore Can I trouble you for a public comment? Ticket is #808209. Your co-worker sets the ticket to solved without reply, so there's no use using your support tool. The main question is: What exactly is the license and IP that the publisher has that nobody else on the Unity Asset Store is allowed to perform heightmap manipulation via mouse drag. The only violation that Unity mentions in the ticket is that I purchased the asset and hence claims I copied it. The whole minimal functionality of the asset is visible in youtube videos, so that's not really an argument. Thank you.
     
  23. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    I just combined MicroSplat and Digger in order to modify the terrain and its texture at the same time via mouse stroke. That's no different, exactly the same trivial functionality. Is that a violation of that "trademark" as well? And if not, then why not?

     
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  24. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    So I contacted the Legal team directly. Here's the reply:

    Hi Rowlan,

    Thank you for writing to us. Let me take your questions one by one.

    * Unity Legal does not vet assets for the Asset Store. I do not know the reason that your asset was taken down, but I can certainly look into it.

    * There is no rule against creating an asset with similar functionality to something that is already on the store, so long as you are not copying the asset itself and so long as it would be obvious to a reasonable customer that your asset is different. The folks vetting assets for the Asset Store have the discretion to decide that an asset is so similar to something we already have that it will confuse consumers or that it will not provide value to consumers. That is a decision they can make without an intellectual property legal analysis, because they are the ones who best understand Asset Store consumers and they are making a simple judgment call.

    * The (tm) mark protects branding or what lawyers call "designation of origin." The point of trademark law is to protect customers by ensuring that when they buy, for example, a Coca Cola, they know it's made by Coca Cola. So if you put a (tm) next to your free tool, it will put people on notice that you own the name of your tool -- but it actually says nothing about the tool itself. (You are probably thinking of patents -- which protect inventions -- or copyright, which protects code and other written expression.) My guess is that the (tm) symbol was not an important factor.

    Please let me know if you have other questions.

    Best,​

    I'm even more confused now :(
     
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  25. knxrb

    knxrb

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    So the Asset Store staff said that Legal said it's not allowed, and Legal is saying there's nothing wrong with it... so it's likely that the Asset Store staff deciding to take it down for some undisclosed reason.

    Sounds to me like your asset shouldn't have been removed, there's nothing illegal about it, and it's Asset Store staff going overboard with their reaction? I assume to a complaint from another Asset Store publisher who doesn't actually legally have a trademark for their own asset anyway...
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
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  26. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    This is the only reason I was given, i. e. section 2.8, i. e. they say I actually violated it. Which I strongly disagree, I don't violate that on purpose. If I would have and someone made it clear to me, I'd have taken it down myself. And now even the legal team says I didn't violate it.

    I can live with threats and insults of publishers here on the forum who think they own the Asset Store, even if Unity doesn't do anything against it. But this situation is unsatisfactory. Further statements to the ticket gets the ticket closed unanswered, hence this forum post because it affects other developers as well who provide an Asset for the Unity platform. I'd like to have this clarified before I spend my time on providing something for free again. Otherwise it'd be just a waste of time.

    But 3 months have passed already, plus the time it took them for the ticket, so I doubt I'll get an answer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2020
  27. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    So I created a follow-up ticket with what Legal wrote to me directly. This was the reply from support:

    screenshot.png
    ie it was set to solved without comment.

    @AndrewAssetStore @Salvatore_Unity What's up now with 2.8? If anyone here purchases an asset, are they blocked in the future from creating a better one or not? According to Unity Support Legal says it's not allowed. According to Legal directly asked it is allowed.
     
  28. Rowlan

    Rowlan

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    Never mind, I don't need an answer anymore. I saw that GeNa Pro with Road and Path Painter functionality got released. And now even Map Magic does exactly what my free Asset did:



    So to sum up the conclusion that was clear from the start and which was confirmed by the Unity Legal Team:

    I didn't violate anything. Nothing at all!
     
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