by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
dillinger, trademark


Court Says EA Can Use The Word 'Dillinger;' Declares John Scalf's Trademark Claim Invalid

from the and-there-goes-your-whole-'business-plan' dept

John Dillinger's somewhat-related great-nephew (via a stepmother), John Scalf, is back in the news again. You may remember his lawsuit against EA Games (or not: it happened nearly two years ago).

Quick refresher: EA's Godfather games feature tommy guns named after famed tommy gun enthusiast, John Dillinger. Scalf took issue with its use of the famous last name, threatening litigation unless EA promptly deposited millions of dollars into his account at the nearest un-robbed bank. EA considered his "offer" briefly before filing a suit of its own requesting permission to use Dillinger's name in its games.

The results are (finally) in and Scalf is (deservedly) on the losing end:
The court rejected the right of publicity claim, concluding that the Indiana post-mortem right of publicity statute isn’t retroactive and thus doesn’t cover Dillinger, and that (in light of the First Amendment) the “literary works” exception in the statute should be read broadly enough to cover video games.

The court rejected the trademark claim, finding that EA’s use of the name “Dillinger” was protected by the First Amendment, because it had some relevance to the plotline of the game and wasn’t “explicitly misleading” as to any possible endorsement by Dillinger, LLC.

It's a good start and maybe a sign that Scalf's coattail-riding days are coming to an end. The court's declaration that Indiana's unusual trademark law isn't retroactive should be enough to kick Scalf's litigious yearnings to the curb, and that seems to be really all he has going for him. Of course, we've seen the legal doors slam shut on a few other overactive players (Righthaven, the Winklevii), only to be pried back open moments later. I guess we'll just wait and see.

Maybe Scalf can secure his dubious legacy by turning this Dillinger quote into his "business" slogan:

My buddies wanted to be firemen, farmers or policemen, something like that. Not me, I just wanted to steal people's money!


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Beta (profile), 27 Jun 2011 @ 7:33pm

    think of the, uh...

    If we don't protect John Dillinger's legacy, what incentive will there be for the next generation of... hold on...

    John Dillinger wouldn't have committed his crimes, without the assurance that... wait...

    If EA wants to exploit an image of a dirty crook who preys on innocent people, sure the image of John Scalf... well, I think I'm getting warmer...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tmtroll, 28 Jun 2011 @ 4:07am


    Sadly the trademark claims live on. They were not dismissed as you suggest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Johnny (profile), 28 Jun 2011 @ 8:37am

    If the roles were reversed...

    And it was a large corporation who claimed the rights, and and individual/small business who used the "trademarked" word, how do you think this would have turned out?

    Not that I don't agree with the outcome here... Just asking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), 28 Jun 2011 @ 11:39am

    Epic douchebaggery, for sure!

    Trademarking a surname, undoubtedly sported by more than one individual on this planet? Quite possibly the most stupid concept possible! Any court permitting this should be set on fire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2011 @ 7:10pm

      Re: Epic douchebaggery, for sure!

      I hope those in that court would have a good Escape Plan.
      (Dillinger Escape Plan. Get it?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2011 @ 7:05pm

    Perhaps he was also planning on suing Disney for the use of "Dillinger" in its two "Tron" movies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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