The following article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on 8/12/98 about the cancellation of Robotica '98:
Front page of San Francisco Chronicle section E1 "Datebook"
"Robotica got caught up in long-standing dispute
No Monkey Business, a fighting robot, will have to pull its punches this year. That's because No Monkey Business' owner, Novato robot fan, Gary Cline, has canceled Robotica, a free fighting-robot derby that was to take place this weekend at the Cow Palace. Not one to monkey around, he pulled the plug late last week after getting caught up in a long-standing legal dispute that has left a similiar contest called Robot Wars in limbo. Cline said his goal in creating Robotica, which he likened to a private party for robot fans, was simply to provide a free forum where enthusiasts such as himself could conduct their annual robot-ripping rituals until the dispute over the 4-year old Robot Wars was resolved. Unfair Competition Alleged But one of Robot Wars' promoters. Steve Plotnicki, threw a monkey wrench into Robotica's works late last week. Charging that Cline's free event posed unfair competition to Robot Wars, which charged admission, he sought an injunction against Robotica and later sued for damages, Cline then canceled Robotica. Neither event is related to the annual Robot Races, to be held September 20 at the exploratorium. Plotnicki, president of Profile Records in New York, said he believed that Cline was looking to do more than hold a private party. He said he suspected that Cline was trying to capitalize on commerial opportunities tied to the event, such as possible video sales or television shows. "Just because they're not charging at the gate doesn't mean they won't make money on the event," Plotnicki says. "With Robot Wars, we never made money from the event. The way to make money was through anciillary income tied to trademarks and licenses for things like TV shows based on the concept." For the Fun of it In fact, he added, the event cost him. "I put up my own money to rent this hall, and there were lots of other costs involved - in the tens of thousands of dollars." "Building and battling with robots is just fun, ant that's the only reason I was doing this. For the fun of it." There isn't much fun or money to be had at Robot Wars, at least for now. The event was shelved this year because Plotnicki and another Robot Wars promoter, Marc Thorpe, have benn battling in court over rights to the event. (The year-old dispute has been the subject of a long-running dialogue on a Robot Wars forum at www.custom-forum.com/robotwars.) Plotnicki said he had parlayed the fight-robot contest into an idea for a TV show that airedlast winter in England. "We've renewed our contract with the BBC for 18 more episodes," he said, "and we'd like to bring that TV format to a worldwide audience, but our dispute with Thorpe is blocking it." He said Cline's decision to cancel Robotica vindicated his legal actions. "When we moved against him, he canceled and the inference one can dram is that we were right," he said. "If he had just wanted to hold a private party, why didn't he call us up and ask for a license?" He added that when he first called Cline to talk about Robotica, Cline hung up on him. Cline concedes that he slammed down the phone, but only after Plotnicki threatened to subpoena him to get information about a potential conspiracy between Cline and Thorpe, a performance artist from Fairfax. Cline said that while he had initially told Thorpe of his plans for Robotica, Thorpe made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with the new venture, for legal reasons. "The legal claims against us were rubbish, " Cline says of Plotnicki's suit, which has since been dismissed. "It was just a free party to hold us over until he and Thorpe could come to an agreement.""