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JURY FINDS FOR RANDY ORTON TATTOO ARTIST VS. WWE, 2K, ETC. IN VIDEO GAME LAWSUIT

By Mike Johnson on 2022-09-30 20:17:00

The jury in the trial for the lawsuit tattoo artist Catherine Alexander brought against World Wrestling Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive Software, 2K Games, Inc., 2K Sports, Inc., Visual Concepts Entertainment, Yuke’s Co., Ltd. and Yuke’s LA Inc. before the U.S. District Court Southern District of Illinois officially ruled in favor of Alexander earlier today.

It took the jury all of three hours and 26 minutes to come to their decision.  What is not yet known is the level of damages the defendants will be required to pay, nor whether the defendants will attempt to appeal the decision.

As PWInsider.com has covered over the last several years, the lawsuit, initially filed in April 2018, alleged that all of Alexander's tattoo work on WWE star Randy Orton are her own original designs that she alone owns the rights to.  Alexander sued claiming that the defendants have all infringed on her copyrights and that she has never given any of the defendants permission to recreate them in WWE-licensed videogames.

In her lawsuit, Anderson stated that she performed the tattoo work on Orton between 2003 and 2008 and that "are easily recognized by his fans and members of the public."  She also noted that, in advance of the lawsuit obviously, she "submitted applications to register copyrights on each of the aforementioned works on March 15, 2018."   Anderson also alleged that she had previously contacted WWE regarding material featuring Orton's tattoos being sold by the company in 2009 and at that time, they offered her a $450 fee for the rights to the designs. Alexander   claimed she turned that offer down and at the time, "told WWE that Plaintiff did not grant any permission to WWE to copy, duplicate or otherwise use or reproduce any of Plaintiff’s designs."

In a ruling issued back on 9/26/20, Judge Staci M. Yandle ruled that WWE and Take-Two had indeed copied five tattoos that were Alexander's original work that she holds valid trademarks on.  Judge Yandle did deny Alexander's request for a summary judgment (which would have been a knockout blow for her legally, setting up definite damages) citing that some of the tribal tattoos Orton has inked would not allow for a judgment, leaving it on for a jury to decide.  At the time, Judge Yandle noted that while there was no question that WWE copied Alexander's works, they had several defenses they could argue before the jury.  As it turned out, the jury didn't agree with any of the defenses, siding with Alexander.

There have been a lot of eyes on the case given that scores of video games that feature professional athletes recreate their tattoos in the games, and this case could set a legal precedent for other tattoo artists to follow when it comes to their work being used in third-party licensing, action figures, games, etc.

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