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Strip Club Loses Law Suit Against Grand Theft Auto


Yep, you read that headline right.  A strip club was suing a video game.  Great use of our judicial resources.

The PlayPen, a L.A. strip club, sued Grand Theft Auto for using a strip club named PigPen in the most recent version, which it conceded was based on the PlayPen.  You would think the PlayPen would like the free publicity but no, they sued for copyright infringement, over a sign.  Well two signs.  They claim the PlayPen sign and the PigPen sign are in the same font and they both had signs out front that said "totally nude" advertising the strip club.  That is so unique and original.  I mean come on, strip club and totally nude?  You should totally copyright that.   

They lost.  Big time.  In fact the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw the case out.  They somehow scored a Judge with a sense of humor, which is rare.  There are days I would kill for a judge with a sense of humor.  Um, not kill, but it would make me very, very happy.  This Judge has a future in blogging.

"Both 'San Andreas' and the PlayPen offer a form of lowbrow entertainment; besides the general similarity, they have nothing in common. The 'San Andreas' game is not complementary to the PlayPen; video games and strip clubs do not go together like a horse and carriage or, perish the thought, love and marriage."

The lawyer for the strip club didn't find the ruling as amusing as I did:

"This ruling now permits people who create artistic works that purport to convey the look and feel of a particular geographic location to use any trademark that appears on any building in that location in the name of art. When you use a trademark or logo of an existing business, as was done in our case, you create the impression that our client is somehow associated with the game, which is not the case."

source, source

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If the Play Pen actually sued Grand Theft Auto, that would send this story into bizarro land. As it is, I believe they sued Rock Star Games, makers of the GTA game franchise.

I imagine the substance of the decision rested on the great legal leeway given to parody and fair use in the States. If you're reading this from the US, you guys are lucky; in Canada, parody is not an adequate defense against defamation or copyright infringement. So think of a strip club's failure to sue a video game as a victory for mockers and jerks everywhere! We win!


I agree with you that this case was a waste of judicial resources. The strip club should have known better (or rather, their lawyers should have known better). Trademark law does not protect against all uses of a name; it only protects against confusingly similar uses of a name in *commerce*.

Karina in T.O

Who's the ambulance chaser who took on this case?? PigPen, infringing on the name trademark of PlayPen, riiiiiiiight!! These PlayPen peens should get schooled in law by the likes of Hasbro or maybe Mattel? Because if we're going to grab at legal straws there has to be some toy manufactorer out there with a Play Pen! Oy. As Lady Justice bonks her head off the scales!!!

I think in the next Grand Theft game they should name the strip joint 'The Tool Shack' because clearly its full of f'ing tools! Taking on the name pig-pen may give someone the incorrect impression there are intellectual mammals in the place. Ya feel me?


What's the difference between this and a satire on a company? Basically they weren't trying to emulate or market it for branding purposes. They just wanted to create a strip bar in the game.

Like the article says, they should be happy with the free publicity. They could have really leveraged it as the strip club in GTA Stud. Great marketing right there!


Palinode: this was a trademark case.

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