Thursday, March 26, 2009

(Not Copying) Indiana Jones in Video Game

Dear Rich: I have a question. I'm a video game designer and I'm in the process of developing a character inspired by Indiana Jones. His name is not Indiana Jones; it's Joe. And the game theme has nothing to do with an Indiana Jones movie. The game character is involved in fighting mummies in Egypt. He wears the khaki pants, button up shirt, has a fedora, and looks like he hasn't shaved in two days. He doesn't use a whip. I'm so glad you asked. Consciously (or subconsciously) it seems like your fedora-wearing, stubble-faced, khaki-clad adventurer who battles Egyptian gods borrows more than inspiration from Indiana Jones. Companies that own blockbuster series characters like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, or Spiderman have an enormous investment in the continuing commercial success of their copyrighted juggernaut, and they tend to be hyper-vigilant in tracking down imitators. The enormous popularity and indelibility of these characters often makes it easier for the owner to win both copyright and trademark infringement cases. This combination of hyper-vigilance (they'll find you), indelibility (the public is likely to associate character elements with them, regardless if you make modifications), plus large bankrolls, does not bode well for your Indiana "Joe". The Dear Rich staff cannot determine if you will prevail in a lawsuit, but we do feel that there is a likelihood you will be contacted by the copyright owner.