Electronic Arts Has Right to Refer to John Dillinger in Its Video Games

See these two interesting opinions from last week, Dillinger, LLC v. Electronic Arts, Inc. (S.D. Ind. June 15) and Dillinger, LLC v. Electronic Arts, Inc. (S.D. Ind. June 16), which involved the Dillinger heirs’ lawsuit over EA’s using the name “Dillinger” for some of the weapons in its Godfather games:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Seems like the right bottom line result to me.