With great fame comes the invitation for potential trouble, and Rockstar Games’ hugely-popular gunslinging title Red Dead Redemption 2 is the latest party to be caught up in the action.
In retaliation to a cease-and-desist letter received last month, publisher Take-Two Interactive has thrown down a legal gauntlet against the familiar Pinkerton name, who are demanding royalties over its appearance in the game – more specifically, in the form of antagonists Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross. The security firm, now a subsidiary of Swedish company Securitas AB and renamed Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, also claims that Red Dead 2′s blatant use of the agency infringes on the “goodwill” associated with the company’s trademark, while creating a false impression that the game was made by or in connection with Pinkerton.
Take-Two, however, is not caving in to the latter’s demand of either a single payment or royalty arrangement. Citing protection by the First Amendment, the team contends that the term bears justification on the grounds of historical authenticity, and has filed a suit of their own as well. Describing the game as a “gripping Wild West adventure” and “essentially an interactive film” in the lawsuit, the publisher requests the Pinkerton agents to be declared fair use, since their actions in Red Dead 2 are reflective of their real-life actions during the 19th- and early 20th-century times:
“Historial fiction – television, movies, plays, and books and games – would suffer greatly if trademark claims like [Pinkerton’s] could even possibly succeed. [Pinkerton] cannot use trademark law to own the past.”
Other media references to the Pinkertons are also brought up in the lawsuit, such as the 1980 film The Long Rider, and 2000s-era television series Deadwood. The most well-known one, perhaps, falls to Booker DeWitt of the BioShock Infinite fame, who is revealed later to be a former agent of the security company.
Pinkerton has yet to issue a response, although Take-Two’s claim of them attempting to profit off Red Dead 2 does seem to have some semblance of truth. After all, its predecessor also featured Pinkerton agents, and the sudden fuss over the repeated use of a name is rather fishy.
Your move next, Pinkerton.