Strange lawsuits aren’t exactly uncommon within the gaming industry, but this one might just be the weirdest so far — this year, at any rate: It turns out that Take-Two, publisher of Rockstar Games’s wild-west sandbox Red Dead Redemption 2, is being taken to court by none other than the Pinkertons. The so-called detective agency and private security firm — notorious for its less-than-savory activities in bounty hunting, strikebreaking, and union busting throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries — you may be surprised to discover, is still around, though it’s now owned by Swedish company Securitas AB, and it recently sent a cease-and-desist to Take-Two “asking for either a single payment or a royalty arrangement for Red Dead 2’s use of the term ‘Pinkerton’ throughout its story.”
The Pinkertons play a not-insignificant part in RDR2’s storyline, as — mild spoiler alert — the protagonist and his gang spend a significant portion of the narrative being pursued by the company’s agents. According to the modern-day Pinkertons, “the game’s use of the agency so prominently implies that it was created with the permission of the company.” Take-Two, however, begs to differ, arguing that “the use of the word is justified on the grounds of historical accuracy” because the game simply depicts the agency doing exactly what well-known and verified historical record says it did back in the days of the old west.
As such, the publisher has filed its own suit “seeking to have the game’s Pinkerton agents declared as fair use.” While we can’t say with 100% certainty how this legal battle will pan out, it seems there’s a fair chance that the Pinkertons will have as much success here as they did when they tried to sue alt-rock band Weezer for using the agency’s name as an album title — i.e., none whatsoever.