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 ionmaiden.com 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.