The Duke of Lawsuits: Gearbox sues 3D Realms


Boidurjya Ganguly


Jun, 17.2020

Duke Nukem is a well-known game today and even people growing up in the 90s are familiar with this no holds bar shooter which is fun, sometimes obscene but always delivers satisfying action. Well except Duke Nukem Forever which pretty much failed as a game on release with both critics and gamers alike. However, that is not where the troubles of Duke Nukem end. This property has been plagued with controversy for a very long time.  

In 2014, Gearbox sued 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment over Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction, a top-down action-RPG they were developing without the approval of Gearbox, which acquired the property in 2010. The case was settled a year later, Gearbox was affirmed as the full owner of Duke Nukem, Mass Destruction morphed into Bombshell, and all was settled. Well that is until composer Bobby Prince filed suit against Gearbox, Valve, and Randy Pitchford over music he'd written for Duke Nukem 3D, which he claimed was used without permission in the Gearbox-published Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour.

Now, Gearbox has filed another lawsuit against Apogee Software which is the legal name of 3D Realms and co-founders Scott Miller and George Broussard that alleges breach of contract in relation to the sale of the Duke Nukem IP a decade ago.  To put it simply, Gearbox is saying that 3D Realms failed to mention that it didn't own that music when it sold the Duke Nukem rights. The Lawsuit states, “ ...Gearbox purchased all intellectual property related to the Duke Nukem video game series (the 'Duke IP') from 3D Realms. In the [Asset Purchase Agreement], 3D Realms represented to Gearbox that the Duke IP was owned free and clear by 3D Realms and that 3D Realms had the right to use the Duke IP 'without payment to a Third-Party.' 3D Realms further warranted in the APA that no copyright was infringed by use of the Duke IP in the Duke Nukem video game series."

According to Prince he only licensed some of the Duke Nukem music to 3D Realms. In that case, 3D Realms failed to deliver Duke Nukem "free and clear" as stipulated in the purchase contract. Gearbox says 3D Realms has also refused to indemnify it against Prince's claims, which was part of the purchase deal.Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said that he believes Prince's claim is legitimate, although it will ultimately be up to a court to make that decision. Gearbox through this action wants to ensure that the company is free from any costs or judgments arising from Prince's lawsuit.