Anyone who watched Deadwood or enjoyed the remake of 3:10 to Yuma recognizes the name Pinkerton. The famed detective agency sent a cease and desist letter to Red Dead Redemption 2 publisher Take-Two last week. Take-Two is the parent company of the better known Rockstar Games, best known for open world games like Red Dead Redemption, Bully, and, of course, Grand Theft Auto. Turns out the Pinkertons don’t take too kindly to their names being used in the game, and argue that the use of the Pinkerton name suggests to players of the game that they themselves were involved in the making of the game, which they were not. This, of course, directly contradicts what the public at large believed before the cease and desist was sent: that the Pinkerton Agency still existed in the first place.
The Pinkerton Detective agency was created in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, whose claim to fame was that he purportedly foiled an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln, who later would hire the Pinkerton agents as his bodyguards during the Civil War. The Pinkertons later became known for being strike-breakers in the late 19th and early 20th century, infiltrating unions and attempting to sow discontent. They have been represented in popular culture in television on shows like Penny Dreadful and Drunk History, in films like the remake of The Legend of Zorro, and video games, such as the original Red Dead Redemption and Bioshock: Infinite.
Not willing to go down without a fight, Take-Two filed suit against the legendary detective agency. The crux of Take Two’s lawsuit against the legendary detective agency is this: the Pinkertons have not made known any other claim for any other interpretation of their likeness or name. Take-Two further alleges that the Pinkerton Detective agency, now owned by Swedish company Securitas AB, is simply trying to profit off the success of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Put simply, [Pinkerton] cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references to Pinkerton agents in depictions of the American West.
We will see where this lands, and how the story unfolds. You can read the full text of the filing here.
Rich Davenport graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota with a B.A. in Mass Communication. He is a lifelong comicbook reader, a film fan and a hardcore video gamer. He also makes a lot of funny faces in pictures, much to his wife’s chagrin.