Tattoo Licenser Argues IP Claims Against Game Designers Inked in Time

On Friday, May 13, 2016, tattoo licenser Solid Oak Sketches, LLC, responded to video game designers 2K Games Inc. and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.’s motion to dismiss a suit over the alleged improper inclusion of certain tattoos on basketball players in the popular sports game NBA2K16, the latest iteration of the franchise. The suit was filed back in February against 2K and Take-Two by Solid Oak after the tattoo licenser had filed copyrights on tattoos inked on the bodies of NBA players Lebron James, Kenyon Martin, and Eric Bledsoe. The sports game, which prides itself on its realism with each yearly release, included the tattoo designs on the NBA stars in NBA2K16, which came out in September 2015.

According to the complaint, Solid Oak licensed the tattoo designs on the players in June 2015, leading to the release of the game with the tattoos’ inclusions as a direct violation of its copyrights. However, the gaming studios thereafter responded to the Southern District of New York court with their motion to dismiss in April, arguing that Solid Oak’s copyright infringement claims weren’t timely because the game’s release predated the copyright registration. According to the game’s makers, they had been including the tattoos on the players in each yearly iteration, long before Solid Oak filed for copyright protection.

But the tattoo licenser shot back in its response motion, arguing that each new release of the NBA2K franchise resets the IP clock because each new game is marketed as an entirely new product. Under federal law, a plaintiff must bring his/her infringement claims within three years of the alleged violation. Solid Oak believes that the three year statute of limitations began with the release of NBA2K16 last September, entitling the tattoo licenser to statutory fees and/or attorneys’ fees in relation to that version of the game at least.

Solid Oak is seeking $150,000 from 2K and Take-Two for each of the alleged infringing tattoo inclusions. The individual artists responsible for the tattoos are not named in the lawsuit.

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