Pissing Off Berghain Will Cost These Guys €50,000

The legendary nightclub won its lawsuit against the manufacturers of a game called 'Bergnein'.

|
16 November 2018, 9:37am

Photo: Bergnein

This article originally appeared on VICE Sweden

Two years ago, Swedish game designer Alexander Kandiloros and his colleagues, Joakim Bergkvist and André Forsblom, created a card game based on Berghain's famously strict door policy. In the game, players take turns at being the Berlin club's famous head bouncer, Sven Marquardt, selecting who to allow in from cards depicting various stereotypical nightclub guests. The guests are allocated points depending on their social status, with the trick being to find the right mix of club heads to create the perfect night.

"Allowing entry to a bear, for example, will give you the highest score," Kandiloros explains. "A hipster is fine, as long as you don't let in too many of them. Letting in a tourist is straight-up bad. The game is meant as satire, taking the piss out of club culture and the aura that surrounds Berghain. The best group of cards you can actually get are the LGBTQ cards. The real purpose of the game is to spread awareness of LGBTQ culture."

After a successful Kickstarter campaign the three friends raised €7,000 to launch around 1,500 copies with its original name Berghain ze game.

Unfortunately for them, Berghain hated the game and sued the designers, claiming the name "Berghain" and any depiction of the nightclub were trademarked. Kandiloros and his colleagues countered that they had trademarked the name in Sweden – but as a concession, they decided to rename the game "Bergnein", selling out in a few selected stores in Sweden.

That wasn't good enough for Marquardt and the club, who went ahead with the lawsuit anyway, and even applied to trademark the name "Bergnein". Soon after that, in November of 2017, VICE spoke to Kandiloros about the case, and at the time he said he was confident that the courts would side with the designers.

They have not. After a year of proceedings, a district court in Gothenburg ruled in Berghain's favour last Thursday, ordering the Swedish board game company Beware of Ninja to pay around €46,000 in legal fees and damages to Marquardt by the 29th of November.

"Berghain have done everything they could to stop our game," Kandiloros tells me. "We never wanted to back down, so that's why we proceeded to release it anyway." Announcing their decision at the time on Facebook, after Berghain first reported the group to Kickstarter, Kandiloros wrote: "After two years of developing and game testing, and after seven months of [being] threatened by Berghain, we say fuck 'em and send Bergnein to print."

1542209259458-1507709922338-171006-by-m-diesel
Alexander Kandiloros. Photo: Mattias Diesel

Marquadt's lawyers argued that the developers exploited his name in order to promote the game without his consent. Beware of Ninja, however, argued that the game is satirical and should fall within the country's freedom of the press laws.

But that argument didn't win over the court. According to the ruling, the purpose of producing the game was to make money, and therefore the case fell within the laws governing advertising, not press freedom.

"It obviously sucks," Kandiloros admits. "It's an absurd amount of money. Now I have a week to get the money together before the case is handed over to the Swedish Enforcement Authority." The guys have appealed, but they still have to hand the fine over by the due date, while they wait for a decision.

1542285163531-berg
The playing cards depict stereotypical subgroups of Berlin clubbers.

The court has also ruled that the developers publish the decision in Aftonbladet, one of Sweden's largest daily newspapers, as compensation for the 1,500 games they've already sold. Finally, the court also called for all copies of the game to be destroyed.

And yet, Kandiloros is considering releasing a new version of the game that he believes will remain within the law. "It will be the most exclusive game we've ever created, with a limited run that will help us earn back some of the money," he says. Whatever happens next, it's unlikely Kandiloros will ever be able to get into Berghain again.

"For a club that's known for being tolerant and accepting, I think it's very corporate of them to send an army of lawyers after us. It's a weird way for them to defend their image of being underground."