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3D Realms Puts Up Dukes In Legal Battle With Gearbox

He'll be your judge, jury, and focus of a series of increasingly heated legal exchanges that culminate in uncertainty surrounding a beloved franchise for years to come.

The plot thickens. Actually, come to think of it, the plot was already quite thick – perhaps even viscous – given that 3D Realms sold the rights to Duke Nukem years ago only to resurface out-of-the-blue with a new Duke Nukem game being developed by Rise of the Triad developer Interceptor, get sued by Gearbox for it, sell its entire business to Interceptor, and allege that the purveyor of borders and lands has no legal ground to stand on. It’s been a mess so far, frankly – a sticky morass of contradictory claims. And now for the latest chapter, in which 3DR and Interceptor claim an agreement over an old project called Duke Nukem Survivor gives them every right to continue absconding with Gearbox’s supplies of gum and frighteningly kickable ass in the night.

3D Realms and Interceptor sent RPS court documents that, among many other things, contain the following section:

“63. [Gearbox’s] claims are barred, in whole or in part, by written or implied trademark and/or copyright licenses. The Asset Purchase Agreement provides that 3DR could complete development of and sell a video game with the tentative title of ‘Duke Nukem Survivor.’ The Asset Purchase Agreement also explicitly provides 3DR a ‘worldwide, non-exclusive license (including the right to sublicense) to use’ the DUKE NUKEM trademarks in ‘connection with the marketing, promotion, manufacturing, and distribution of’ the ‘Duke Nukem Survivor’ game. In 2012 and again in 2013, Plaintiff was informed by 3DR of the development of the Duke Nukem game by 3DR. Plaintiff failed to timely object to the development or sale of the Duke Nukem game.”

Duke Nukem Survivor, apparently, was Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction’s tentative title.

The dynamic developmental duo are also alleging that Gearbox doesn’t hold Duke Nukem’s trademark rights at all, and thus they remain “the sole property of 3DR.” The company claims, then, that Gearbox never intended to enter into the vaunted “good faith” agreement it’s spoken so much about, but rather “sought to force former owners, Scott Miller and George Broussard, to improperly surrender what rightfully belonged to 3DR.”

Questions abound. How exactly did Gearbox fail to secure Duke Nukem trademark rights, for instance? Seems like a rather large oversight for a developer that trumpeted from the mountaintops its purchase of all Duke-Nukem-related releases from here until the end of time. And what exactly was Duke Nukem Survivor in its original conception? Was it far enough removed from Mass Destruction that there might be something to Gearbox’s claims after all?

I’ve sought comment from Gearbox and put in another interview request with 3DR/Interceptor. In the meantime, though, goodness. Even when Duke isn’t spouting crude one-liners and putting holes in everything that moves, he sure can carve a path of destruction.

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