Recently, Lindsey Lohan made headlines for her suit against Rockstar for “borrowing” her likeness for a character in GTA V. She’d been threatening to sue for some time, so Rockstar was unsurprised; but, even without the threats, Rockstar should have known the Grand Theft Auto franchise was putting it at risk for a lawsuit. History tends to repeat itself.
In 2006, a court found that the Pig Pen Gentlemen’s Club in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did not violate trademarks belonging to the Playpen gentlemen’s club. The clubs were similarly located in real life and in the game world, and both logos included the silhouette of a nude female dancer inside the first “P.” The court found that even though Rockstar artists relied on pictures of the area for inspiration in creating the animated fanciful world that was San Andreas, they changed enough of the look and feel and design aspects to not infringe on the marks. The court found that the parody strip club was not a major draw in the game. The fact that the club was not a major component of the game informed the court’s decision that there was no infringement.
Earlier this year, Karen Gravano, Mob Wives star, filed a $40 million suit against GTA V claiming they used her likeness in the “Burial” random encounter mission. The suit claimed that the in game character, and her family, directly copied the actual life events of Gravano. Rockstar responded that the case has no merit, and beyond that, the character is thinner than the real life Gravano.
Lohan will have her hands full going up against Rockstar.