Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive hit back at the real-world Pinkertons last week after receiving a cease and desist letter over use of the Pinkerton agency’s name and badge throughout “Red Dead Redemption 2”.
A complaint launched in response to Pinkerton Consultancy & Investigation – the historical agents-turned-risk management service currently acting as subsidiary to the security firm Securitas AB – maintains that the use of the “Pinkerton” name is protected under “First Amendment principles that protect expressive works.”
“The game’s reference to the historical Pinkerton National Detective Agency and its agents is but one of a myriad of ways that “Red Dead 2″ accurately portrays the historical Nineteenth Century American landscape,” reads the complaint from the game makers.
“Put simply, Defendants cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references to Pinkerton agents in depictions of the American West.”
According to Rockstar’s complaint, Pinkerton Consultancy & Investigations sent the initial cease and desist letter on Dec. 13, 2018, claiming that “Red Dead Redemption 2” would “cause confusion” over their Pinkerton mark and detective badge.
The Pinkerton group also allege that “the Pinkerton National Detective Agency is widely used including the Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross characters,” two fictional agents of Pinkerton. The company also alleges that this “creates the false impression that the game originates from [Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations] or that [the company is] somehow connected to or associated with Rockstar Games in a way that deceives customers or causes confusion or mistake.”
“…This attempted association of [Pinkerton] and Rockstar Games through the Red Dead Redemption II game is likely to blur the distinctive character and tarnish the reputation of [Pinkerton’s] famous trademarks,” Pinkerton’s cease and desist letter continues.
In “Red Dead Redemption 2”, the historical Pinkerton National Detective Agency is portrayed as antagonists on the hunt for game protagonist Arthur Morgan. But the appearance of the Pinkerton name in “Red Dead Redemption 2” is “neither excessive nor exceptional,” says Rockstar. Of the 106 missions that make up the 60-hour narrative, the Pinkerton characters appear in just 10. Moreover, the complaint reads, the use of the “Pinkerton” name is common in historical entertainment.
The term has been used in films like “The Long Riders”, television shows like “Deadwood”, songs like Elton John’s “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun,” and books like “The Pinkerton Detective Series”
Pinkerton Consultancy & Investigation demanded compensation from Rockstar “for the user of its valuable trademark”, adding “While we are willing to discuss a lump sum figure, given the prominence of the [Pinkerton] brand and the importance of the Pinkerton characters to the game story an applicable percentage of each game sold is an appropriate royalty rate.”