The rights to tattoos generally belong to the artist, not the person they are permanently inked on to.
Embattled publisher THQ is facing a lawsuit from a disgruntled tattoo parlour owner for using one of his designs without permission in UFC Undisputed 3.
The design of the lion tattoo featured on mixed martial arts fighter Carlos Condit is owned by Chris Escobedo who runs Elite Tattoo in Arizona. He is seeking damages for copyright infringement.
Escobedo claims that he would not have agreed to the recreation of the tattoo by one of the game's animators had he been approached by THQ. At a minimum he would have insisted on approving the artwork and receiving some kind of remuneration.
'People often believe that they own the images that are tattooed on them by tattoo artists,
said Escobdeo's legal representative Maria Crimi Speth. 'In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.'
The tattoo artist's position is considered to be a strong one. Although it settled out of court, the makers of the Hangover 2 faced a similar situation for the reproduction without permission of Mike Tyson's facial tattoo in their film. Had it made it to court, legal experts suggest that the film makers would have lost.
This lawsuit comes at a time when THQ is also dealing with tumbling share prices and is continuing to lose money. As a result of its struggles, several of its upcoming high profile releases including Company of Heroes 2, Metro: Last Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth have been significantly delayed.
In the company's Q2 earnings report published earlier this month, it reported a net loss of $21m. One of its highest profile releases last quarter was Darksiders 2, a title that some analysts doubt will break even dispute shipping 1.4 million copies.