3D Realms Claims Gearbox Has No Right to Duke Nukem Trademark
3D Realms has responded to Gearbox Software’s Duke Nukem trademark lawsuit, and before I deliver the details, I’d just like to say: all this over Duke Nukem?
Off we go: In February, Gearbox filed a lawsuit against 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment over Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction, a project 3DR and Interceptor teased with a website and Facebook page. Gearbox, which acquired Duke Nukem from 3DR in 2010 and finally finished and published Vaporware Award shoe-in Duke Nukem Forever in 2011, said it never gave 3DR permission to make Mass Destruction and asked the court to put an end to the project.
As part of its lawsuit, Gearbox even submitted a signed legal document dated February 16 from 3DR principals George Broussard and Scott Miller, who admitted they had no legal right to authorize Interceptor to create Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction.
“Development efforts such as 3DR’s Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction effort with others was not only unauthorized, but a material infringement of Gearbox’s rights,” Miller and Broussard stated. “I apologize to Gearbox for the infringement and breach represented.”
Case closed, right?
Not so fast. Shortly after Gearbox filed its lawsuit, the owners of Interceptor Entertainment acquired 3D Realms. Interceptor declined comment on the lawsuit and how it related to the acquisition, but now it’s clear the publisher won’t give up on Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction without a fight.
In a statement issued to Polygon, 3DR denies all allegations and claims Gearbox “sought to force former owners, Scott Miller and George Broussard, to improperly surrender what rightfully belonged to 3DR.”
“It is our position that 3DR retains the right to develop the tentatively titled Duke Nukem Survivor game for specific platforms. This game was previously licensed for development to Interceptor Entertainment,” 3DR stated. “Furthermore, it is our position that the Trademark for Duke Nukem was never assigned to Gearbox, but remains the sole property of 3DR.”
Interceptor added it’s own statement as well:
“As an independent and young studio, we have been very fortunate to work with companies such as Apogee and 3D Realms on amazing IP’s such as Duke Nukem and Rise of the Triad. As true fans of these companies, their games and the amazing minds behind them, we have nothing but respect for the intellectual properties they have created as well as their rightful owners.”
“We were extremely excited for our next reveal, but unfortunately due to the actions of Gearbox Software, Interceptor Entertainment decided to put this reveal on hold in respect of their lawsuit. However, 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment were rightfully developing our game and as you can imagine we were quite shocked when the accusations by Gearbox arose, as we have always acted within our legal rights. It’s unfortunate that Gearbox has shown no intention of finding a peaceful solution with us. We will however continue to work towards a solution.”
It’s likely Gearbox didn’t seek to find a peaceful solution with 3DR because the bad blood between the two parties began in June 2013 when 3DR sued Gearbox for nearly $3 million in unpaid Duke Nukem Forever royalties. It’s a lawsuit that 3DR later dropped and chalked up to a simple “misunderstanding.”
As an outsider looking in, it appears the real victim here is Interceptor Entertainment, who evidently believed they took all the necessary steps to make a Duke Nukem game and likely paid 3DR handsomely for the right to do so. It’s unfortunate they got dragged into this. Given 3DR’s track record on Duke Nukem Forever, the lawsuit it already dropped against Gearbox, and the signed admission of trademark infringement from Broussard and Miller, all signs point to 3DR being a hot mess.
I’ve contacted Gearbox for comment and will update this post with any response.