Notorious bank robber John Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents in 1934, but his fame lives on. And that is causing some problems for game publisher Electronic Arts.
EA has filed suit in federal court in San Francisco, requesting that a U.S. District Court judge grant them the okay to use the name "Dillinger" in association with a pair of virtual machine guns depicted in its Godfather games. The "Dillinger Tommy Gun" appears in the original Godfather game, while the "Modern Dillinger" is featured in The Godfather II.
The publisher has taken the unusual step because the owner of Indiana-based Dillinger LLC, reportedly the grandson of the famous gangster’s half-sister, lays claim to all things Dillinger, including his name and likeness.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for the publisher last week, claims that Dillinger LLC tried to commit a bit of strongarm robbery on EA recently:
On July 22, 2009 Dillinger LLC, through its litigation counsel, contacted EA to accuse it of violating Dillinger’s right of publicity and infringing upon its trademarks. Dillinger threatened EA with litigation unless it agreed to pay Dillinger millions of dollars for the game elements…
Following Dillinger’s recent conduct, EA is faced with the choice of either abandoning its rights to develop, publish and sell the works at issue or risk liability for damages.
The EA case is not the first time Dillinger LLC has gotten legalistic over the use of the Dillinger monicker. The Arizona Star reports that in 2007 Dillinger LLC claimed its permission was needed for local hotel to run a "Dillinger Days" event. As the newspaper explains, an Indiana law has apparently emboldened Dillinger LLC:
The hotel is being sued under an Indiana law that protects a person’s personality for 100 years after his or her death. It works like a trademark, because a person who wants to profit from the use of the personality must obtain written permission. Arizona has no such law, and it’s not clear whether the Indiana law applies here.
DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of EA’s lawsuit here…