First Amendment Protects Spoof Strip Club in Video Game from Trademark Claim–ESS Entertainment v. Rock Star Videos

6 11 2008

By Eric Goldman

E.S.S. Entertainment 2000, Inc. v. Rock Star Videos, Inc., No. 06-56237 (9th Cir. Nov. 5, 2008)

This case reinforces how trademark law has gone so far astray that easy cases have become hard ones. This lawsuit was brought by the Play Pen, a strip club in downtown Los Angeles. The Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game depicts stylized but grittily realistic scenes inspired by a few major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles. At issue is a virtual strip club in the East LA-inspired area titled “Pig Pen” that resembles the actual Play Pen’s trade dress and logo. The Play Pen argues that consumers will assume that it endorsed or is otherwise associated with the video game and therefore the depiction constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition.


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