by Madison Vaughn
On May 28, 2019, Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd. filed a trademark infringement suit in the United States District Court, Central District of California, against 3D Realms Entertainment alleging $2 million in damages because of a new video game developed under the name “Ion Maiden.” The IRON MAIDEN mark is registered to Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd. for a variety of goods and services ranging from live musical performance to t-shirts to video games. Trademark Attorney Nicholas Wells of Legends Law Group noted that the name of the iconic rock band Iron Maiden is likely to be viewed by a court as a famous mark under the Lanham Act.
As shown below, the distinctive font used by the band Iron Maiden was arguably mimicked by the Ion Maiden video game.
Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd complains that the video game, “Ion Maiden,” would cause a significant portion of the public to associate the game with the rock band’s previous video game, “Legacy of the Beast.” Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd alleges that “Ion Maiden” attempts to “take advantage of Iron Maiden’s worldwide recognition” in order to sell more products. Some have suggested that the video game maker 3D Realms will assert as a defense that the plaintiff’s IRON MAIDEN trademark is generic because it refers to the historical torture device called an iron maiden, and that other sellers would need to utilize this term to sell similar products. This strikes us as a losing argument; however one feels about the music of Iron Maiden, there is little connection between the goods and services for which the IRON MAIDEN mark is currently used and the actual torture device of that name.
Another possible approach that the defendant, 3D Realms might use is to note that “Ion Maiden” is the name of a weapon within the video game; thus 3D Realms is claiming that this is the reasoning for the name of the video game. The weapon is fictional, and although it might bear a similar name to the ‘iron maiden,’ also a weapon of sorts, it resembles a powerful gun and not the hypothetical torture chamber—“the iron maiden.”
The statements filed in the lawsuit take issue with other similarities between the game and the IRON MAIDEN mark, namely the main character’s name and the aesthetic experience of the game. The complaint notes that 3D Realms has adopted Shelly Harrison as the name of its main character, which the plaintiff views as an attempt to copy the name of Steve Harris, who is the primary member of Iron Maiden, the band; and has adopted a similar steel cut font for the name ‘Ion Maiden.’ Moreover, they view the overall “look and feel” of the Ion Maiden video game as being similar to the Iron Maiden video game called “Legacy of the Beast.”
The plaintiff provided other evidence including the results of Google searches conducted to suggest likelihood of confusion. Blogger Andy Newman reports finding that searches for things like ‘Ion Maiden Merchandise/Posters/Mouse Pads’ are auto-corrected by Google to include ‘Iron Maiden’ search results. These searches suggest both the popularity and significance of the IRON MAIDEN mark and the possible resulting brand confusion if “Ion Maiden” sold merchandise in promotion of their video game.
3D Realms Entertainment has claimed that any similarities were unintentional and that they remain focused on delivering an exemplary and original product to its consumers within the promised timeline. The members of the rock band, Iron Maiden, have yet to comment on the lawsuit, as it was filed by Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd and not the band itself.
This legal battle echoes a similar trademark litigation in 2009, in which Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd. filed a lawsuit against Aspen Comics. The comic company attempted to release an issue titled “Iron and the Maiden” and the IRON MAIDEN legal team brought a case against them in the US District Court. Aspen Comics, despite arguing that the claim was “completely without merit,” changed the issue name to “The Iron Saint.”
Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd is standing firm in their assertions that the video game knowingly infringes their trademark. 3D Realms Entertainment has yet to file a formal response to the complaint.