Jim Brown Publicity Rights

COURT: California Superior Court
STATUS: Active
DATE FILED: 08/30/13

Complaint 08/30/13


Hagens Berman represents NFL legend Jim Brown in a publicity rights lawsuit alleging that Electronic Arts, Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) (“EA”), unlawfully used his likeness in its videogames without his permission.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 30, 2013, in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles, alleges that Electronic Arts sent a letter to Brown in 2005, asking permission to feature him in its popular Madden NFL videogames. He declined the offer, and a similar offer two years later in 2007, the lawsuit states.

Brown and his attorneys claim that he even inquired of EA on two occasions, in 2007 and 2008, about whether his likeness was used. He was told that his likeness was not featured in the games, the complaint alleges.

Yet, in November 2008, Brown allegedly learned that Madden NFL ’08, a game released in late-2007, used his likeness without his permission. He conducted additional research and learned that, contrary to EA’s claims, his likeness was used in various Madden NFL games dating as far back as 2000.

The complaint alleges that rather than directly use Brown’s name, EA attempted to skirt the law by featuring a virtual player on the historic 1965 Cleveland Browns team with characteristics nearly identical to Brown. The virtual player was also a running back, played the same number of years in the NFL, and had the same height and weight, age, home state, skin color, handedness, and relative skill level in various aspects of the game. According to the complaint, gamers could easily determine that Brown was the character represented in the game.

Following Brown’s investigation and subsequent discovery that his likeness had been used in nearly a decade’s worth of Madden NFL games, he filed suit against EA. The suit alleges violations of his rights of publicity under California law, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.

Brown’s lawsuit asks the court to award damages to Brown to compensate him for the use of his likeness, including punitive damages as well as disgorgement of profits obtained by EA through its unauthorized use.

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