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Keker & Van Nest Wins "Total Victory" for Gaming Industry Leader in Trademark Suit


An Indiana federal judge on Thursday nixed a trademark suit brought by John Dillinger's heirs over Electronic Arts Inc.'s use of the famed gangster's name in video games, finding that the games were protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted summary judgment to EA on the heirs' trademark claims, handing the video game maker a total victory in the suit a day after ruling that the plaintiffs could not bring state law right-of-publicity claims.

Dillinger's heirs lodged the suit in October 2009, accusing EA of unauthorized use of the Dillinger personality and trademark to refer to virtual machine guns named the Dillinger and the Modern Dillinger in its “Godfather I” and “Godfather II” video games. The games are based on Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptations of Mario Puzo's novel, and do not otherwise reference Dillinger, according to court documents.

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The Court's orders not only affirmed EA's fundamental First Amendment right to design and publish its games, but also made clear that Indiana's right of publicity statute could not be applied retroactively to individuals who died before it was enacted.

EA was represented by R. James Slaughter and Adam Laurisden of Keker & Van Nest LLP.

Jamie Slaughter has extensive experience in complex civil and white collar criminal matters. He has successfully represented companies and individuals in breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, trade secret, copyright, trademark and right of publicity cases. He has also represented individuals in matters with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice, and numerous national law firms in professional negligence cases. 

 Adam Lauridsen’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, including intellectual property, securities, legal malpractice and contract disputes. He has been an active member of the lead trial team in a multi-week, multi-defendant federal trial and has participated in numerous arbitrations and mediations. Mr. Lauridsen has represented individuals in federal courts, state courts and before the Securities and Exchange Commission. His clients have included large corporations, executives of Fortune 500 companies and high-profile individuals.