Bank Robber’s Descendent Sues EA Over Godfather


A descendant of notorious 30s’ bank robber John Dillinger has sued EA over what he claims is the unauthorized use of Dillinger’s name as a weapon in the publisher’s Godfather games.

John Herbert Dillinger was one of the gangsters who captured the collective consciousness of America during the early 1930s, and it’s not hard to see why: Not only did Dillinger and his gang hold up at least two dozen banks, they robbed police stations – not once, but four times! Let me repeat that sentence for you: Dillinger’s gang robbed four police stations. As in, the people with guns who were trying to catch them. And they got away with it, too! Dude must have had cojones the size of a Volkswagen.

Though Dillinger was gunned down by police in 1934 after two successful jailbreaks, his legacy lives on – and can be seen in EA’s two Godfather games, where the infamous criminal has some weapons that bear his name. The “Dillinger Tommy Gun” is in the original Godfather, while Godfather II has the “Modern Dillinger.” A fitting tribute, no? Not according to the man who claims to hold the rights to Dillinger’s estate: The owner of Indiana-based Dillinger LLC, reportedly the grandson of Dillinger’s half-sister, filed suit against EA in July, reports GamePolitics.

On July 22, 2009 Dillinger LLC, through its litigation counsel, contacted EA to accuse it of violating Dillinger’s right of publicity and infringing upon its trademarks. Dillinger threatened EA with litigation unless it agreed to pay Dillinger millions of dollars for the game elements…

Following Dillinger’s recent conduct, EA is faced with the choice of either abandoning its rights to develop, publish and sell the works at issue or risk liability for damages.

Nor is this the first time the man has claimed rights to the likeness and name of his ancestor – in 2007, he invoked the rights and claimed that an Arizona hotel needed permission from him to run its annual Dillinger Days event, an event which celebrates the gangster’s capture at the hotel many decades ago with reenactments and the like. While Dillinger LLC does seem to have the right to do such things under an Indiana law that “protects a person’s personality for 100 years after his or her death” that works much like a trademark, it’s unclear whether or not that law applies to Arizona – or, in this case, to California.

EA has filed suit in San Francisco to defend its use of the name, requesting a U.S. District Court judge to grant them the A-OK to use the name.

One wonders if the people behind Amazing Heists: Dillinger will be next, or if they’ll just fly under the radar here.

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