The Real Life Pinkertons Are Suing Rockstar For ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’


The real life Pinkertons are turning out to be just as frustrating as the digital ones in 2018’s most popular game. Red Dead Redemption 2 made plenty of gamers don a souther accent to decry the “GOD DAMN PINKERTONS,” or agents that hunt down the Van der Linde Gang in the smash sequel to the Rockstar western saga.

The Pinkertons in that story are based on real agents from the old west, and they still exist in some form, though presumably they no longer ride horses. Two main antagonists in the story — Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross — are Pinkerton agents that cause a lot of trouble for Arthur Morgan and Co., and the modern-day Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations says they’re owed royalties for all the money Rockstar has made off the game released last fall.

As The Verge notes, Pinkerton originally made legal actions against Rockstar in December, but it was Take-Two’s countersuit that has brought the details of the initial cease-and-desist to light.

Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations (now a subsidiary of security firm Securitas AB) delivered its cease-and-desist order in December, roughly two months after Red Dead Redemption 2’s release. It commended game development studio Rockstar’s “clear affection” for Pinkerton, but claimed it was trading on the “goodwill” associated with the company’s trademarks, creating a false impression that the game was made by or connected with Pinkerton.

Take-Two’s countersuit claims First Amendment protection against any lawsuit for using the Pinkerton name, saying in the suit filed Friday in a Manhattan court that historical references to a group that would be nagging the game’s gang don’t require compensation to the modern Pinkertons.

“Put simply, Defendants cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references to Pinkerton agents in depictions of the American West,” the lawsuit read.

Most seem to think the lawsuit is frivolous, and Take-Two firing back here is notable. But it is good to see that even though the west has long since been settled, some parts of history seem to repeat themselves.