Iron Maiden sues 3D Realms for trademark infringement

Posted on May 31, 2019

Legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden are suing games publisher 3D Realms for $2 million. The band believes that the upcoming shooter “Ion Maiden” , is  an “incredibly blatant” infringement of their trademark. Ion Maiden is a followup to 3D Realms’ 2016 title Bombshell.

Ion Maiden has been on Steam Early Access since February 2018. It bills itself as a  “true successor to classic shooters such as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood”.  Players control action heroine Shelley “Bombshell” Harrison, who must wipe out a sinister cybernetic cult from the streets of Neo DC. True to the 90’s FPS titles that the game homages, it features open ended levels, a wide arsenal of weapons, and no regenerating health.


According to the lawsuit, the band Iron Maiden believes that the game’s title will cause “confusion among consumers”. Ion Maiden is “nearly identical to the Iron Maiden trademark in appearance, sound and overall commercial impression”, and “is attempting to trade off on Iron Maiden’s notoriety”.  In addition, they argue that the game’s protagonist Shelley Harrison  is a reference to Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris. Ion Maiden’s skull logo is also argued to be a reference to Iron Maiden’s skeletal mascot Eddie.

To back up their assertions that Ion Maiden will cause confusion, they point to evidence of Iron Maiden fans mistakenly confusing Ion Maiden with the band’s own video game, Legacy of the Beast. For their part, 3D Realms have stated that they will “review their options once they receive official notice of the lawsuit and will make any necessary decisions at the appropriate time.”

Whilst it is hard to argue that Iron Maiden doesn’t kind of have a point, at the same time, it is pretty obvious 3D Realms were going for a homage with Ion Maiden. Under US law, using famous iconography for the purpose of parody is usually protected as a form of free speech. Whether anyone is likely to actually confuse an upcoming first person shooter with the product of a heavy metal band is unknown. However, popular bands are known for being rather protective of their trademarks; for instance, in early May of 2019, Guns ‘N’ Roses sued a Colarado brewery named Guns ‘N’ Rosé.

We don’t know yet what the result of the legal action will be. It is likely 3D Realms will fight to keep the Ion Maiden name and iconography, but it is unclear what would happen if Iron Maiden won. Hopefully the two parties can sort out a compromise that lets the game still come out without a lengthy legal fight.