Games Workshop has responded to the trademark infringements for the book "Spots the Spacemarine". It did not take long, and just happened a short time ago today.


This is what is posted up on Games Workshop's Facebook page.

via Games Workshop on their Facebook page
Games Workshop owns and protects many valuable trademarks in a number of territories and classes across the world. For example, 'Warhammer' and 'Space Marine' are registered trademarks in a number of classes and territories. In some other territories and classes they are unregistered trademarks protected by commercial use. Whenever we are informed of, or otherwise discover, a commercially available product whose title is or uses a Games Workshop trademark without our consent, we have no choice but to take reasonable action.  We would be failing in our duty to our shareholders if we did not protect our property.

To be clear, Games Workshop has never claimed to own words or phrases such as 'warhammer' or  'space marine' as regards their general use in everyday life, for example within a body of prose. By illustration, although Games Workshop clearly owns many registered trademarks for the Warhammer brand, we do not claim to own the word 'warhammer' in common use as a hand weapon.

Trademarks as opposed to use of a word in prose or everyday language are two very different things. Games Workshop is always vigilant in protecting the former, but never makes any claim to owning the latter.

74 Comments:

  1. It didn't help the book clearly mentioned power armour on the blurb too. It isn't too hard to come up with literally any other term than Space Marine. How about Space Commandoes or Star Marines, why not even Void Rangers? Actually, I'm claiming rights to Void Rangers... But still, it's pretty damn easy to pick a different name!

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    1. Damn straight, the author was just stupid here.

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    2. But the point is that she shouldn't have to. They're such generic terms, and no-one has the responsibility to dance around GW on this one.

      I kinda like the idea that the sci-fi world turns around to GW and says 'Well, actually, *you* can't have those terms, if you're going to be like that'. It's a minor fantasy of mine that Space Marines become utterly sidelined in 40K, and we can put the spotlight on all the other - actually interesting - races in the game.

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    3. No... she should have to be careful, as should everyone, if I write Jedi Academy, the Doctor Who years I would expect trouble. If I put time travelling jedi in the book without calling them Jedi or The Doctor and without the title no one would care. As many people have said there are hundreds of alternatives and a ten second google search would have brought up the problem. Were GW heavy handed, a bit, were Amazon heavy handed, VERY.

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    4. The first use of Space Marine was in 1936....... I think GW owes Bob Olsen's estate some major cash.

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    5. Power Armour has also been around for years before GW. GW borrowed the term as far as Gaming is concerned from Laserburn. The original concept is Heinlein's.

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    6. Gravmyr, Trademark doesn't work that way.

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    7. @KoIR: I thought Laserburn was created by the people that went on to make 40k. Didn't they also create terminator armour?

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    8. power armor has, but be honest a power armored trooper called a space marine is very much treading on that trademark

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    9. It's not insane that a company would own a generic term. Marvel and DC own the term "superhero" and can sue publishers for using it in a book title. In fact, they have.

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    10. The diffrence is the capitalisation in the tital. GW cannot and does not own space marine (lower case) which is a generic term. However Space Marine (capital) is a specifoc name and is owned by GW. If the tital were Spots the space marine. The author would have been safe. That's how I understand it at least.

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    11. I understand why they would patent 'space marine' or 'power armour', because it's so integral to their business. But if we're talking about who originated the concepts, it's certainly not Games Workshop, they were just the first to file the trademark. It's no more their idea than elves, dwarves or orcs. This whole debate is over whether it's fair for GW to trademark such a common term in sci-fi literature. In my view, it's not. I understand why they would do it for table top games, but for fiction, it's simply not fair.
      It's like Philip Dick trademarking the term 'android' after writing 'Do Androids Dream...". Even though he didn't originate the term, it's now his and no one else can use it in literature. It makes no sense whatsoever, and is just as outrageous as GW claiming the term as it's own.

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    12. Pirate Viking: 'Jedi' is a different matter. It's been made up specifically for Star Wars. Similarly using 'Doctor Who' in such a manner. They're specific, unmistakeable phrases. 'Space Marine' is not such a thing - capitalisation or no, frankly. It's like Nintendo suing over the the use of the word 'Ditto', which they've trademarked in Pokemon.

      If GW want to get fussy, they should have been careful and chosen a more original name for their concept.

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    13. @Jon Vilko I think Void Rangers are Eldar corsair organization so you are propably too late for that.

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  2. Screw that, GW is into Wargaming and its own Warhammer 40000 world. This is crap... love the game, the company is unscrupulous.

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    1. How? by recognizing that they cannot continue to provide a game if they allow their property rights to be diluted? When someone is blatantly using IP without permission, they are stealing. Period.

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    2. I think Games-workshop has no right to do this since the term's are quite generic and Games-workshop were not the first company to make use of the term or come up with the term.

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  3. I actually fully support GW in this, they are not the big ogres that everyone makes them out to be, doing this is no different than any other game company protecting their trademarks, it just seems that alot of people on tge internet want any excuse to gun for GW

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    1. Agree. If the book told about power armoured space marine, it may be accidental but it clearly steps a bit too far on other one's territory.

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  4. So does that GW announcement mean that if the book's name would have been 'Spots the space marine', then it would have been ok?

    But because its 'Spots the Space Marine', then its not?

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    1. Maybe on a technical level, but I'm sure someone between the author and the reader would have 'corrected' the title by capitalising it anyway

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    2. But it would have been ok?

      If so, then i'm on GW's side on this.

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  5. http://media.heavy.com/post_assets/2010/03/0213/1267553819_super-bat.jpg

    Can someone explain this then? Lol

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    1. And thats much more infringement than this SpaceMarine issue ha.

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    2. Ok, the text on the picture makes absolutely no sense.. Though it would be interesting to see what would happen to the poor 'justice man' if he happened to skate into a corner..

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    3. my guess is it slipped below the lawyers.
      you see stuff like that all the time

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    4. Those are called cheap knock offs usually produced in a country with little over sight and no infrastructural to enforce trademark/copyright/etc...

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  6. Had GW been the originator of the term "Space Marine" or even "power armor" or even "space marine in power armor," they'd have a very good legal argument here. Unfortunately for them, none of those is the case.

    While I love the 40k universe for its fluff, very little of it is unique, and that's okay. Like Picasso said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." There are no original ideas.

    While I'd be fully supportive of GW defending a clear violation of their IP (Chapterhouse making units for GW's games, for example, or if this lady started writing stories about the 40k universe specifically), that's not what this is, from what I'm seeing.

    Granted, I haven't read the book, so maybe the author goes on for pages about the God Emperor and Horus the Betrayer, but I somehow doubt it.

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    1. Bull
      No company in the world can be the originator of its name. Most companys names are takeing by several at the same time.
      Its ludacrise to put the burden on the copyright holder!

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    2. It's ludicrous for a copyright holder to assume that anything similar to their product is an IP violation.

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    3. @Mike, sadly that's what they're required to do if they want to protect their IP or else legal precedence occurs for people to rip them off.

      Got to love the legal system, it actually requires you to be a dick just to keep from being dicked over.

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    4. The issue at hand is trademarks not copyrights.

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    5. Love your last sentence, Zion! That sums it up pretty well!

      In other news, Apple has sued Samsung in Lichtenstein over...

      ;-)

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  7. this is just GW bullying and muscling in on small time writers

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    1. ...except it's not though. It's GW protecting themselves from getting screwed, without which there'd be no game, or at least it would be a shadow of what it was.

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  8. This is a joke.. Space Marine is so generic... duh.. they're marines and in space.

    Link to BBC news article on this. Can't believe they've actually got something so generic trademarked. What a joke.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21380003

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    1. You are right and if it went to court I doubt GW would have much to stand on either just as Bethesda didn't when they tried to claim the word 'scrolls'. The harsh thing though is that GW probably knew this but decided to throw their bully lawyers at the author anyway as she has no way of defending herself. System suck much?

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    2. This trademark has stood for 22 years and was even renewed in 2005. I wish people would stop acting like GW just trademarked this last week and decided to attack this author as part of some evil master plan.

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    3. Really, google "space marine" and find any material not related to GW or its products in the first 10 pages...

      Maybe this author thought she could just get away with this "space marine" in the title seeing as it would increase the chances of her ebook coming up in a search due to the 100+ GW books. Being an independent author does not make her innocent of any wrong doing, at best she was ignorant.

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    4. The problem is, "ignorance is no excuse...", so says the law.

      And, let's keep things in perspective. GW hasn't sued this author; they asked Amazon to pull her book, and they complied. That's all, folks...

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    5. It would be interesting to know precisely what intellectual property protection GW has over "Space Marine" exactly and in what context. Their declaration on their own web site of their "trademarks" is not particularly helpful for three reasons - (1) it is not specific about what is covered by TM, R, or C, (2) it is not clear in what contexts these exist - gaming you would think but the wider world of fiction unlikely, and (3) it seeks to cover things that it can't possibly stand a chance in covering - quite frankly if you include races this includes Dwarves and Orcs - and i'd argue Space Marine closely follows especially in the non-gaming context. This is why TM over Space Marine is not so clear cut.

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  9. Tokien's estate should sue GW for the use of the word Eldar. :)

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    1. Yes.. and piggy backing off an awful lot of his work... just like TSR i guess... don't get me wrong GW have done their bit and have a right to protect what is so particularly theirs but so much of what they do is generic sci-fi or fantasy. It's nonsense on some things to say that's theirs.

      I'd love to see GW take on Wizards of the Coast for the term Dark Elf as they both use it, but then one uses Drow and one Druchii - also note how GW does not go there in associating spiders in any way with Druchii as this would no doubt annoy Wizards of the Coast.

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  10. The issue for me is that a company should not be able to trade mark a generic term or phrase. AKA "Army Builder". If your product or intellectual property name describes what it DOES or what it IS in the most generic terms, you should not be able to exclude others from the same thing.

    What's to prevent GW from trade marking "space ship" or "laser gun"? Or what's more, what to prevent a dozen companies from trade marking these and every other available combination of generic terms for anything sci-fi?

    If trade marking terms is this open then I see a near future where almost every term is trade marked by someone, not just GW. Then it will be on authors or game designers to create an endless list of unique terms for generic items?

    Tyranid? Fine! It's a unique word that has no historical or cultural use beyond the creator's. Genestealer? It's a compound word of two common concepts, but maybe a valid trade mark. Space marine? Ridiculous.

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    1. And Thats why she called them crabs!
      Very innovativ NOT -.-

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  11. Marines: Soldiers affiliated with a naval force that serve as boarding troops in naval battles and as a land force serving naval operations.

    Space: The void between planetary bodies and solar systems

    Space Marine: A soldier in a science-fiction setting serving in the capacity of a "marine" on behalf of an interplanetary or interstellar navy.

    Games Workshop: A company that makes fun games but thinks it owns the very generic terms it has applied to one of its product lines. I'll buy "Tau," Orks," "Tyrannids," and "Kroot" as unique names they may want to protect to some extent, but really, "Space Marines"? What next, "Imperial Guard," "Eldar," or "Chaos"?

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    1. Internet Lawyers: People who think they can claim legal understanding of what's going on without research or legal training and then criticize companies for doing things they don't understand or agree with.

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    2. Common sense should trump the law.

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    3. 1. Common Sense would have to stop being so rare that it was a super power.

      2. People would actually have to stop trying to steal each other's IPs to make a quick buck.

      And since that would take the Emperor himself coming off his throne and smacking humanity over the head, it ain't going to happen.

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    4. "Common sense should trump the law"...
      Good luck using that defence if you ever beat up a pedophile!
      Seriously though, law is law irrelevant of common sense. Sounds daft when put like that, but that's how it works. Break the law and you get punished, no excuses.

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    5. GW Fanboys: People who to defend GW, a company that stole the term Space Marine, Eldar, the Chaos star, Xenomorphs and many others. The same apologists who don't realize GW were the ones who stole the IP in the first place and are now receiving backlash from the entire established SciFi community.

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    6. Jepp
      In Addition there is a diffrence between winnig in Court so youre right by Law and ACTUAL RIGHT. Sometimes you win in Court but the other side Never Payes its fin, caus they are Out of Biss.

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    7. Even if somebody Held IP Before. The Book would have Stolen from that Source aswell!

      One wrong doesnt make a nother wrong a right!

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    8. Harley, this whole page has reasons why this isn't GW but the legal system structure. Please read carefully before resorting to making a fool of yourself.

      GW Anti-fanboys: People who aggressively try to make pariahs of GW due to a personal beef and then out of arrogance believe everyone should jump on their little bandwagon.

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    9. Additionally, "receiving backlash from the entire established SciFi community" - they're not. Sweeping generalisations without support and trying to reinforce your argument through vague assertions lends you no credibility what so ever.

      Keep such rhetoric to the school yard.

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    10. Thank you, Calistarius! Well said...

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  12. Ima go write a book called Spots the Wonder Woman and see how that goes.

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  13. Quick someone trademark Dark Angels or Tau or Chaos Daemons and sue Gamesworkshop for infringement.

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    1. As if that was how it works -.-

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    2. Quick someone trade mark Dark Angels or Tau 20 years ago and sue game workshop for infringement.

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    3. Harley, why don't you write a "This Is Our Hobby" article and submit it to Natfka explaining what it is that GW has done to offend you so, so that we'll have a better time understanding where you're coming from? I just dont get it! Why do you troll this site with your anti-GW vitriol? What have they done to you, personally, that you take any and every opportunity, every day, several times a day, to dis the company?... Have they put a gun to your head and forced you to purchase their products? Did you choke on a bolster bit when you were little, and so you feel like its your personal mission to destroy them? Seriously, find some positive, constructive outlet for your energy! I promise you'll feel better...

      :-)

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  14. you really don't understand how the adult world works do you?

    Not only are those things already trademarked by GW, but by the doctrine of use, you would be te one in violation, not GW.

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  15. Let me preface this by saying: I am not a lawyer. But as a trademark holder myself I got together with a lawyer and informed myself about the legal ramifications as much as I needed to avoid getting screwed over.
    Trademarks were designed to clearly identify a product to the customer, so the manufacturer would be safe from false liability. As such this is something the trademark holder is very interested in protecting. But as always along came a crook, who thought: "can I somehow use this to my advantage?" And in fact there are many so-called trademark holders, who basically just register a trademark and sue other people for infringement without ever having invented the term.
    This is why there are very strong restrictions on trademarks and copyrights: for example a certain trademark has to be registered in a certain commerce group. So if I were to produce a brand of oranges called "The Space Marines" people would probably look at me funny, but I would be perfectly in my rights to do so, because GW probably hasn't registered their trademark for fruits.
    But on the other hand I would probably not be allowed to call my brand "The Orange", because this term is part of everyday language and as such cannot be protected.
    I guess now the question would be to decide if the term "Space Marine" is in fact a term so integral and common to science fiction, that the genre would be significantly dimished by its absence. On the one hand there is clearly the fact that the term is very present in the science fiction genre and that it predates the GW trademark by almost half a century. On the other hand it has been shown quite clearly that alternative terms are abundant and practical.
    To illustrate I will leave you with the following two scenarios:
    1 - As a fan of the original story "Starship Troopers", which featured space marines and powered armour, you pick up a book about the exploits of the Ultramarines...
    2 - As a fan of the heroic Adeptus Astartes you pick up this Spot the space marine (whatever its capitalization)...
    ...obviously expecting to read about your favourite heroes, where would you be more disappointed, and would this feeling really be justified?

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  16. Well I think it is ridiculous.

    Space marine is a genric word as is codex.

    So I am setting a book up called codex space marines on amazon.

    In this book I shall give stats for gentically engineered supurhumans created by the emperor (another term in common usage).

    See how you feel about it after being hoodwinked

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    1. Even though your example is demonstrably flawed, as now we are talking about entire phrases, which in turn can be protected even if the words in them are part of the general language, you are kind of making my point: you would feel cheated, and rightly so.
      I think you would probably feel much less cheated, if you were to pick up a book by Games Workshop, and expect to read about Starship Troopers, since the term Space Marine is so common in science fiction, that you would probably not be surprised, if there were other interpretations of it, and the author of Starship Troopers never actually laid claim to the term.
      The point is, that neither argument can, or should, be dismissed as ridiculous, since both have validity.
      Believe me or not, but in this case I think, that Games Workshop actually has a case (this time). But the issue is complex and should be treated accordingly.

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    2. Generic words... Like bat and man, right? Or power and rangers? Or adventure and time?

      Ima write a sequel to my book and call it Adventure Time: The Continuing Chronicles of Spots the Power Ranger.

      Spots will fight with something called a "light saber" as those are two generic words I just threw together.

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    3. Space Marine is far more generic and widely used than any of these terms.

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    4. How about Super Man? That's pretty generic, it's even two words instead of one but if you wrote a story about a guy who could do awesome, phenomenal things called super man, you'd get it taken down too.

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  17. Just to point out...while Bob Heinlein did use the term space marine in some of his works...Starship Troopers was not one of them. At no point does he refer to the Mobile Infantry as Space Marines. He describes what we now know as a Space Marine, but does not use the term. Thus making any and all comparisons with trademarking the word Space Marine in relation to Starship Troopers irrelevant.

    Excellent posts Gavrahil

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    1. Agreed, but 'power armour', another GW trademark, actually did come from Starship Troopers.

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  18. I still can't fathom why Lucasfilm hasn't sued GW back to the stone age for the Sentinel walker.

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  19. I hear escaped Nazi war criminals are planning to sue Lucas for his use of 'stormtrooper'.

    But, joking aside, GW has shown itself not to be on the same side as it's fans. There's simply not a drop of respect for the milleu that WHK40K has it's roots in.

    I can't wait for the day 3d printers sit in every home. Make our own models, make our own universes, make our own damn games.

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  20. I think the issue here is that:
    1) They have an established trademark on Space Marines in a game context, and
    2) They have recently begun publishing science fiction in eBook format.

    However, this does not mean that they automatically have a “common law trademark” on space marines in science fiction.

    I believe they used this author to test if they could actually get away with extending their trademark through establishing precedent.

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