Back in 2007, when Bethesda Softworks acquired the rights to Fallout from Interplay, they entered into a separate agreement that would give Interplay the rights to create a Fallout MMO. The catch was that certain conditions would have to be met regarding the development of the game or Bethesda could rip up the deal.
Two years later, in 2009, Bethesda was apparently under the impression that Interplay was not holding up their end of the bargain. Bethesda moved to end the agreement and ending up suing Interplay in an attempt to get exclusive rights to Fallout back. However, the suit was denied by a U.S. district court.
Nowadays Bethesda is going after the actual developer that Interplay hired for the Fallout MMO. Masthead Studios is the company in question and Bethesda has filed for a restraining order in the hope that Masthead will no longer be able to use the Fallout IP. However, just this week, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter turned down the request.
Said Judge Walter, “[Bethesda] has not demonstrated that it will be irreparably prejudiced if the requested ex parte
relief is not granted, or that it is without fault in creating the crisis that requires ex parte relief. The Court finds that Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in seeking relief, and that the emergency that allegedly justifies a [temporary restraining order] is self-created.”
Apparently Bethesda knew back in February of this year that Masthead was working on a Fallout game, but they waited seven months to apply for the restraining order. Meanwhile, Interplay is in financial danger and it’s possible that Fallout Online never sees a release even if Bethesda doesn’t get their way.