Mobile game development company RC3 has hit teen superstar Justin Bieber with a preemptive lawsuit in federal court in Florida over its right to sell “Joustin’ Beaver,” a video game app available for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
As the name suggests, RC3 developed and marketed the app based upon Bieber’s image. Joustin’ Beaver lets the player control a lance-carrying, dreamy-eyed beaver with a thick fringe of bangs strongly reminiscent of Bieber’s famous former hairstyle. While floating down a river on a log, the beaver must dodge the “whirlpool of success” and do battle with “Phot-Hogs” — sinister-looking pigs with cameras that try to take his picture.
According to the complaint, the dispute began when Bieber’s attorneys sent RC3 a cease-and-desist letter on February 13 claiming that the company had breached the law in a variety of ways, including trademark infringement, misrepresentation, and violation of Bieber’s rights of publicity. The letter also demanded that RC3 stop selling Joustin’ Beaver and provide an accounting of the money it had made from the app. RC3 says that Bieber’s attorneys made clear in discussions that followed that they would take whatever legal action against RC3 they thought necessary.
RC3 sued Bieber, instead, asking the court to declare that it had not violated Bieber’s trademark and other rights and did not misappropriate Bieber’s name. RC3 also claims that, because it is a parody that comments upon Bieber himself and the nature of celebrity, Joustin’ Beaver is free speech activity protected by the First Amendment. Trademark law in San Francisco — and throughout the nation — safeguards the right to free speech, but many other celebrities would doubtlessly side with Bieber and his legal team on this issue.
A victory by RC3 would validate its right to sell and profit from Joustin’ Beaver. A victory by Bieber would expose RC3 to claims by Bieber for its profits from the game. Barring settlement, the jousting will continue when Bieber responds to the complaint.