EA Keeping Guns in Games, But Dropping Manufacturers; Gun Makers Could Sue Over Trademark Infringement

By Luke Caulfield , Updated May 08, 2013 04:01 PM EDT
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EA is doing their best to back out of the national debate over real life gun violence, and the virtual bloodshed featured in so many of today's video games. The company told Reuters they would no longer feature the name of the companies who manufacture weapons in any of their games.

The company found itself in a bit of hot water for advertising and providing links to actual gun manufacturers Magpul and MacMilan Group's websites on their own
Medal of Honor: Warfighter website. EA released a promotional video and press releases announcing the partnerships over the summer, but removed the links shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. EA representative Jeff Brown felt keeping them up was "inappropriate," an emotion the company is reflecting with this latest move.

"We won't do that again," says Brown. "The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons."

So what's this mean for some of EA's bigger properties featuring these armaments? Battlefield 4, Medal of Honor, etc. What are players gonna use, harsh language? Nope, still all the same weapons that have been featured for years. Here's where thing's get tricky.

EA says they can still feature these weapons, arguing that their virtual representation is actually free speech.

"We're telling a story and we have a point of view," EA's President of Labels Frank Gibeau tells Reuters. "A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example."

Odd as it sounds, this has been done before, and without threat of legal action from manufacturers. A great many of the weapons featured in one of the most influential of all FPS games, GoldenEye, were thinly veiled counterparts of real-life weapons: the game's take on an AK-47 was called the KF7 Soviet, the real life FNP90 was known in-game as the RCP-90, and the game's Cougar Magnum was actually the Blackhawk revolver by Ruger. There are about a dozen other examples in just GoldenEye alone, as well as others.

The rub is if the manufacturers will let EA go through with this Rare trickery, as despite not being named, their products are still getting free advertising, or if they'll actually try to take legal action, as Bell Helicopter has. The company is arguing that EA's use of their helicoptors in Battlefield amounted to a trademark infringement. The two companies are now involved in a lawsuit set for a jury trial in June.

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