Epic Games Sued By Company That Manages 'Coral Castle' In Florida Over New Fortnite Map
from the the-lawyers-in-the-coral-castle dept
Of all the trademark insanity we cover here, there are still little nuggets of niche gold when it comes to the truly insane trademark disputes. There are plenty of these categories, but one of my personal favorites is when real life brands get their knickers twisted over totally unrelated items in fiction. If you cannot conceptualize what I’m talking about, see the lawsuit brought by a software company that creates something called Clean Slate against Warner Bros. because…The Dark Knight Rises had a piece of software in it that was referred to as “clean slate.”
Which brings us, as most stories about insanity do, to Florida. Epic Games released a new map for its hit game Fortnite recently, entitled Coral Castle. The map includes motifs of water and structures made from coral. CCI, based out of Florida, holds trademarks for a real life landmark called Coral Castle. There too, you can catch real life motifs of water mixed with structures made to look like coral. It is not, however, a video game setting. It is real life. And, yet, CCI has decided to sue Epic Games over the name of its map.
CCI, a Florida corporation, owns two trademarks related to Coral Castle, which is “a limestone structure created by an eccentric Latvian-American named Edward Leedskalnin.” According to the filing, Coral Castle, “often referred to as ‘Florida’s Stonehenge’ … comprises numerous megalithic stones, mostly limestone formed from coral, each weighing several tons.” The two trademarks cover “[o]n-line retail services” like Coral Castle replicas, collectible spoons, thimbles, t-shirts, and CCI’s logo, according to the complaint.
So, merch for the landmark, got it. What that has to do with a video game map is quite literally anyone’s guess, but CCI seems to think that between the name of the map and what the filing itself refers to as thematic elements, this is somehow both trademark infringement and going to cause confusion in some kind of manner.
The virtual Coral Castle, CCI contended, “shares common themes with the real Coral Castle,” like castle structures and partial walls, stone objects, and nautical motifs. The complaint avers that both the real and virtual Coral Castle “evoke the feeling of a centuries old mysterious place.”
CCI argued that Epic has caused it harm by “utilizing the vast goodwill associated with the [t]rademarks” to promote Fortnite and the sale of in-game purchases without CCI’s consent. Too, Epic has purportedly “used reproductions, counterfeits, copies and/or colorable imitations of the Trademarks in commerce or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution and/or advertising of Defendant’s goods and services, and such use is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive.”
All of which is monumentally silly. Whatever fame Coral Castle might have regionally, it feels quite unlikely that the general populace is going to even know that the landmark exists, never mind somehow connect it to Fortnite’s new map. In the absolute worst case scenario, perhaps some gamers might think, true or not, that the map is in some way inspired by the Florida spot. But some sort of confusion in commerce? Where? How?
Add to all of this that the map isn’t a likeness of the real life landmark what are we even debating this for? Epic made its map different. As in distinct. As in not really trying to fool the public into thinking there was any association here.
What CCI could have done, however, would have been to have some fun with this and use it to draw attention to its real life landmark. It went legal instead, foregoing all of the potential good publicity it could have generated.