EA in legal showdown with Dillinger, LLC

Publisher files suit after purported rights holder of famed bank robber demands "millions" for use of name in Godfather games.


Earlier this year, EA's second attempt to adapt The Godfather films into a game resulted in lackluster sales and a dismal critical reception. Two months after the game's April 2009 launch on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, EA Games president Frank Gibeau explicitly stated that "we're not going to do another one." But just when EA thought it was out, the Godfather franchise pulls it back in.

The Dillinger family certainly knows how to make a demand.
The Dillinger family certainly knows how to make a demand.

As spotted by Game Politics, EA filed suit in the US District Court of Northern California against Dillinger, LLC last week over the in-game use of a pair of weapons bearing the famed criminal's moniker. Specifically, the firearms in question are the "Dillinger Tommy Gun" found in The Godfather and the "Modern Dillinger" available in The Godfather II as part of a downloadable content package.

According to the filing, the suit stems from legal saber-rattling initiated by Dillinger, LLC, which claims it owns "the publicity rights for and trademark interest in the name of late bandit John Dillinger." The complaint alleges that on July 22--exactly 75 years after the bank robber was gunned down by the FBI in Chicago--Dillinger LLC contacted EA threatening legal action if the publisher did not agree to pay "millions of dollars for the game elements purportedly covered by its publicity rights and trademarks."

As noted by Game Politics, Dillinger, LLC's claim apparently stems from an Indiana law that "protects a person's personality for 100 years after his or her death." EA, on the other hand, contends that its use of Dillinger's name in The Godfather games is protected under the First Amendment, and it does not violate any claimed rights of publicity or trademarks held by Dillinger, LLC.

EA is seeking declaratory judgment in its favor that the use of John Dillinger's name in its games does not violate Dillinger, LLC's rights and to prevent further litigation over the matter in the future.

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