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Another video game subject of intellectual property lawsuit

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

We have written in this space before about video games raising issues of intellectual-property ownership. It makes sense. Many video games reproduce aspects of true life in artistic or graphical ways. Sometimes, creative video-game content may intersect with actual images, brands, marks and other original works that are protected such as by trademark or copyright.

We have blogged about disputes over images of professional sports figures' tattoos showing up in video games as well as dance moves like those performed in live or filmed performances.

The Iron Maiden controversy

On March 28, an iconic heavy metal band sued a company for its use of a trademarked name for a video game (and associated merchandise) with similarities to the band's trademarked names as well as with a video game produced by the band.

For years, British band Iron Maiden's company has owned a trademark for a stylized version of "Iron Maiden" for use on a wide variety of concert- and band-associated merchandise. It even created Iron Maiden video games using its own music, according to the complaint, published on Scribd.

Iron Maiden sued 3D Realms Entertainment in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for 3D's creation of a video game with similar elements to Iron Maiden's video game as well as wide use without permission of the name "Ion Maiden" in the same script as the trademarked name of the band. The lawsuit alleged federal and state trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition.

In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the Ion Maiden label with the same font as the Iron Maiden mark creates "undeniable" confusion about whether the game is associated with Iron Maiden. The complaint also contains descriptions of fans who complained that they thought the defendant's products came from plaintiff.

Legal remedies sought

The plaintiff is seeking at least $2 million in statutory damages plus others to be determined. It also asks the court to order that:

  • 3D cancel the domain name or give it to the plaintiffs
  • 3D cannot use Iron Maiden or Ion Maiden
  • 3D's violations have been "willful" and the case is "exceptional"
  • 3D abandon any Ion Maiden trademark applications
  • 3D give up to be destroyed all merchandise, ads and means of printing or making the infringing mark
  • And others

We will watch this lawsuit with interest and keep readers updated.

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