The Gearbox/3D Realms legal battle over Duke Nukem is heating up

3D Realms fires back at Gearbox, saying they believe that they not only have the rights to make a new Duke Nukem game, but also that they own the Duke trademark itself.

The legal tussle between Gearbox Software and 3D Realms over Duke Nukem is heating up. 3D Realms said this week that not only does it have the rights to develop its own Duke Nukem game, but it also retains the rights to the Duke Nukem trademark. But first, some history.

After 3D Realms--which is now owned by Interceptor Entertainment--teased new Duke game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction last month, Gearbox announced that it was suing the studio over unauthorized use of the IP and trademark violation.

Now, 3D Realms has filed a complaint against Gearbox and provided Polygon a statement explaining just why it needed to do so.

"On March 17, 2014, 3D Realms filed its answer to the complaint by Gearbox Software in Dallas, Texas. 3DR denies all allegations set forth in the complaint. In its answer, 3DR has submitted evidence showing that Gearbox at no point intended to enter into good faith negotiations but instead sought to force former owners, Scott Miller and George Broussard, to improperly surrender what rightfully belonged to 3DR."

"It is our position that 3DR retains the right to develop the tentatively titled 'Duke Nukem Survivor' [working title for Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction] game for specific platforms. This game was previously licensed for development to Interceptor Entertainment. Furthermore, it is our position that the Trademark for 'Duke Nukem' was never assigned to Gearbox, but remains the sole property of 3DR."

An Interceptor Entertainment representative added another statement on the matter. "It's unfortunate that Gearbox has shown no intention of finding a peaceful solution with us. We will however continue to work towards a solution," the spokesperson said.

In 2010, the Borderlands developer announced it acquired the rights for the Duke Nukem IP. It helped see Duke Nukem Forever to the finish line after more than a decade in development, and announced plans to develop other games in the franchise.

"Gearbox was the only home appropriate for the Duke Nukem brand," Broussard said at the time. "They are very talented and possess the perfect perspective and understanding of the brand. Their vision for its future direction is exciting and unbelievable. I personally cannot wait for fans to see their unique take on the franchise."

In 2013, 3D Realms sued Gearbox alleging unpaid Duke Nukem Forever royalties, but then abandoned its claim, and apologized for what it called a “misunderstanding.”

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and is a big UCONN athletics fan.

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Discussion

154 comments
berserker66666
berserker66666

It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum........

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

Looks like they will have to put up their dukes and fight it out. Meanwhile the next Nuke Em game will be released in about 20 years.

Redsyrup
Redsyrup

It's fair to say they'll be duking it out in court.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

If Gearbox does own the IP then 3DR has no case. If they don't why do they think they own the IP?

Takeno456
Takeno456

Ok I don't care who ends up owning it. If the series is going to be as much garbage as the last Duke title was I'll pass on it.

UnrealPro
UnrealPro

I hope Gearbox loses the Duke Nukem IP forever.

Defender1978
Defender1978

I don't really care who owns Duke as long as they make more Duke.  I've played the hell out of Duke Nukem Forever and it's expansion.  

PS4Lives
PS4Lives

This kinds of shit is naked to public. I know how 3DRealms didn't compensated financially from the last game but this shows how evil and tight the publishers are.

PS4Lives
PS4Lives

Publishers are so.............

Paul2004
Paul2004

I think this is a losing battle, they havent taken action against Duke Nukem Forever even tho they claim to own the IP (Abandoning a claim doesnt count IMO, its admitting defeat) so why would any court side with them ?. If they really believed that they owned the IP then they should have stuck to their guns and proven it then and there, no company would stand back and let another use its IP without a "Donation" at the very least.

The last game was terrible and i would rather have the original team try to remake the series but for now this seems near impossible.

DrKill09
DrKill09

I say if they can't reclaim the IP, make a spiritual successor, like the creators of Mega Man and Castlevania are doing.


I would rather play "Nuke Dukem" than another Gearbox made Duke Nukem.

DrKill09
DrKill09

I wish 3D Realms and Interceptor entertainment luck, but I don't think they have a chance.  Who knows.


That said, Interceptor Entertainment have shown with screens of Duke 3D Reloaded and the Rise of the Triad reboot that they are a better developer than Gearbox.


Gearbox gave us the decent, but disappointing DNF on pc, with GOD AWFUL console ports.  And who could forget the total pile of shit Aliens Colonial Marines?  Horrid AI, ugly graphics, and no sense of atmosphere.  The icing on the cake was the fake trailers.  Instead of next gen graphics, we got a game that looked and played like a budget Dreamcast title.

Radnen
Radnen

DnF was a terrible gam *(yes it's a gam not a game)* but I don't fault gearbox on that. I'm sure if gearbox had made it from the beginning it wouldn't have been so bad. Also the Aliens franchise wasn't also entirely in their hands. I think gearbox is getting a bad rap lately and here's hoping the next game they make is finally done right (in house with full developmental control).

Doomerang
Doomerang

The contract clearly stated that Gearbox owned all future rights to Duke Nukem Forever. That means that they also owned the trademark unless contested. Gearbox had announced back in 2010 that they had acquired ownership of Duke Nukem, and not once did 3D Realms ever contest the ownership of the trademark. The royalties lawsuit does not count, because 3DR abandoned it before it reached a conclusion.


I honestly don't know how 3DR or their owners can think they have any rights to the Duke Nukem franchise outside of the pre-Forever games, especially in terms of the trademark. They had four full years to contest ownership of the trademark and they never did, and they never made any complaint in the past four years about being "forced" to do this. There is no way that a judge would find in favor of 3DR, and 3DR should fire their lawyers if their lawyers are the people who believed that such a case is winnable.


If it turns out that their lawyers had told them that this was a stupid thing to do and 3DR went along with the statement anyways, then we should all point our fingers at 3DR and laugh. 

souldomain1984
souldomain1984

I have no clue about such things. But it seems to me they didn't have a clue, either.


Funny! ><


Some industry veterans they are. Now I know where those shitty AAA games come from.

dark_jedi79
dark_jedi79

Pitchford wants the right to make more shitty games damnit!!

Hoaph
Hoaph

Gearbox should just let 3Drealms develop the game...it'll be ready in 2026.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

Gramps Brussard just gone bonkers.

Hurvl
Hurvl

It's look like there's no winners in this fight and that actually suits me fine. Gearbox hasn't done much good lately except the Borderlands games and 3D Realms hasn't done anything at all, couldn't even finish Duke Nukem Forever, so I have no expectations concerning whatever future game they might be working on. Let them fight over the right... to party, um I mean, the right to the Duke Nukem trademark :P.

Barighm
Barighm

I don't see how there can be a legal battle. I've SEEN the agreement of the sale. It clearly states the ENTIRE Duke property, in every sense of the word, was transferred to Gearbox. It was purchased for $2 million which, fyi, covered 3D Realms current operating dept of roughly the same. That doesn't sound like a "forced" business deal made in "bad faith". That sounds like a fair and even trade. And last I heard, the bosses of the two devs are good friends.


I'll bet this is coming from these Interceptor Entertainment guys. They know what they lost. They want it back.

DeadrisingX1
DeadrisingX1

Give it away Gearbox; not too many can forgive you for what you did to Duke Nukem: Forever.

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

gearbox is such a shady company. do they have no shame? false advertising with aliens was embarrassing as well. it's not like anyone gives two shits about duke these days, but it is the principle. hey, i will give the benefit of the doubt that gearbox may in fact have the rights, but their arrogance does not give me much hope in that being the case. pitchfork is as sly as they come.

ff7100
ff7100

Let the gamer's have say on this, if its games good 3D Realms gets to keep it if not get sue'd by Gearbox both ways we win

tomservo51
tomservo51

Fighting over a long dead franchise. sad.

RE2LeonS
RE2LeonS

I've been losing more and more respect for Gearbox since their debut of Borderlands. I was banned from their forum for voicing my displeasure about all the glitches the Borderland's DLC had and their lack of attention with fixing them. Instead they were more focused on pumping out another DLC pack for the game than fixing the previous General Knoxx pack which was plagued with game break glitches. Then after the whole Sega/Gearbox Aliens Colonial Marines debacle where it was brought to light that the budget initially needed for that game was slowly being bled and used by Gearbox to work on Borderlands 2 without Sega's knowledge, I knew Gearbox was headed for that gray area of being just another greedy company. It comes to no surprise when the Duke Nukem franchise starts having their own drama. How does Gearbox release a good game like Borderlands, then a terrible one like Duke Nukem? Oh yeah, by not really doing much on the game, reusing a lot of previous material, not really updating it at all. Gearbox is a mess and I won't miss them if they tank.

DrKill09
DrKill09

@Takeno456  Go play the new Rise of the Triad.  Interceptor know how to make great games.  ROTT 2013 was released for $15, and is superior to Duke Forever ($60) in every way.


If they could get the rights back to Duke, then the series would be great once again.


With Duke Forever, the mishandling of Brothers in Arms, and the abysmal Aliens Colonial Marines, Gearbox have shown they can't develop an FPS worth a DAMN anymore.

quakke
quakke

@Takeno456

It won't, since the new one is not going to be a CoD-clone. Haven't you seen that CoD and BF are already dying if you look at the declining sales numbers? DNF was bad because it only pretended to be Duke game, while gameplay was CoD. Hide behind cover regenerating health..

quakke
quakke

@PS4Lives  

What has this to do with publishers? 3DR is one of the industry veteran developers and Gearbox is one of the industry's shitty developers.

DrKill09
DrKill09

@Hoaph  Still funny, but Interceptor Entertainment are a LOT quicker at developing games than 3DR.

quakke
quakke

@Hoaph  

Joke's old.

Broussard had really good intentions with the game. He wanted to make the best possible game ever created, only it backfired and went horribly wrong. 

CoD being the worst game ever, DNF ain't that low, but DNF is right after CoD.

DrKill09
DrKill09

@Ripper_TV  I think that happened years ago when he kept ordering DNF be remade on newer engines... even though Duke 3D was on a dated engine when it came out, and was still a massive hit.


Duke was never about cutting edge graphics; it was about gameplay, interactivity, and character, as were Blood and Shadow Warrior.  Both of which were extremely dated graphically by the time they came out.

dlCHIEF58
dlCHIEF58

@Ripper_TV  

It's not him, he sold 3D Realms to Interceptor Entertainment who is putting forth this claim. Broussard already commented last month that he had sold the rights to Gearbox in an interview. Interceptor is grasping at straws. 

dlCHIEF58
dlCHIEF58

@Barighm

Actually 3D Realms did retain the rights to the old, already released Duke Nukem games as well as the film rights. They did sign over all future rights to Gearbox, so I don't know where Interceptor (who bought 3DR) thinks they still retain the rights unless Broussard bamboozled them when he sold out. 

Barighm
Barighm

@DeadrisingX1 Did what? Take 3D Realms' turd and polish it? They didn't really develop the game, dude. They just took what was broken and taped it together the best they could.


Not that I'm defending Gearbox, I don't like what they have done to Borderlands 2, but misinformation is misinformation.

Barighm
Barighm

@Xristophoros I wouldn't say 1.5 million sales of a game with a rotten review score is a good example of no one giving "two shits".

Barighm
Barighm

@RE2LeonS Gearbox used the assets developed by 3D Realms to slap together the mess 3D Realms created. The only way to fix it would have been to recreate the entire game from scratch which was a ridiculous proposition given how long it has been since a Duke game was released. Gearbox used DNF as a way to measure the franchise's interest in Duke. The game still sold well despite the review scores. Acting like they should have given it their all over something so risky is just childish. 

Don't forget a fair bit of money which would have been used to create the game was used in the purchase of the Duke property in the first place.

Lum_Yatsura
Lum_Yatsura

@quakke @PS4Lives3DR doesn't understand the scope of what selling an IP entails. As long as that continues, we will not see an end to these squabbles.

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@Barighm nostalgia is its only saving grace. how many of those 1.5 million people regret their purchase of the last duke game? 1.45 million? duke was never a good franchise to begin with. it was big and dumb in all respects and got popular in the 90s for passing the line. people will not make the same mistake twice and buy into this trashy series.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

@Xristophoros You're not correct actually. Duke was the first shooter, where the protagonist HAD a personality.

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@TheWatcher000 the fps genre owes its debt to wolfenstein,doom, quake and unreal. duke nukem was an oddball in the bunch that did nothing new except show nude strippers. you are giving it too much credit. it may be a classic to some, but that doesn't mean it is worthy of that title. big and dumb  games  can be fun and worth the time, but duke is not one of them due to the poor execution in most respects. 

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@Xristophoros @Barighm 

Duke was never a good franchise to begin with?  Duke Nukem' 3D is considered one of the all time classics  and a cornerstone of the shooter genre.


As for being big and dumb, compared to Call Of Duty, that is a laughable statement.

Barighm
Barighm

@Xristophoros I'm sorry, but you're stating your opinion as fact. Your dislike of the game proves absolutely nothing. The game sold well and Gearbox's forums was flooded with people praising the game and that was despite previews, trailers, and all sorts of pre-release material that clearly showed the game was crap. Yes, DNF sucked, but the market is there and Gearbox has a much better chance of delivering a good game than 3D Realms does.