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Capcom Wins Zombie Infringement Case


by Christopher “Undead” Harbin,
Legal Satyricon Correspondent

I’m only really scared of one thing in this world. Zombies. Really – they freak me out. I think it’s because my brother made me watch Return of the Living Dead when I was a kid. Couple the freaking flesh eaters with Linnea Quigley’s (B-movie scream queen) naked wet boobies in a graveyard and the scene was set for childhood scarring.

Anyways, I digress. In 2006, Capcom created a zombie-themed video game “Dead Rising.” The main character in the Dead Rising was a photojournalist dropped into a zombie-infested mall in order to get the scoop on the recent zombie wave. After a play through, it was obvious the game was an homage to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead / Day of the Dead / Mid-Afternoon of the Dead series of zombie classics. MKR group, who owns the trademarks to the movies, threatened to block the release.

Capcom got a little skittish and sought a declaratory judgment that it did not infringe on MKR groups trademarks. In turn, MKR group counterclaimed for dilution, misappropriation, and copyright and trademark infringement. On October 10th, the USDC of Northern California granted Capcom’s Motion to Dismiss ruling that the two works were not substantially similar under the extrinsic test. The opinion delves into interesting detail of the plots of both works and Judge Richard Seeborg demonstrates excellent knowledge of zombie lore and the nuances of the game and the movie that sets them apart. Given a cursory glance, it might appear the two plots are somewhat similar, but it seems Judge Seeborg took the time to explore both the game and the movie when ruling on the merits. Kudos!

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