Philip Morris Vows Action To Remove Marlboro Logos From Video Games
Feb. 13, 1991
NEW YORK (AP) _ Philip Morris says it is considering legal action to force the video-game maker Sega and video arcade owners to remove Marlboro logos from children's video games.
''We are going to go after the retailers, and we are going to consider our legal options concerning Sega,'' said Leslie Zuke, a spokesman for Philip Morris Cos. Inc. in New York.
Zuke commented Tuesday on a spot check by Associated Press reporters who found the Marlboro logos in arcades in Denver, Miami, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Tenn. and New York in mid-January.
The games were manufactured by Sega of South San Francisco, Calif., which last year negotiated an agreement with Philip Morris under which Sega was supposed to have the logos removed.
''We signed the agreement in good faith. We assumed it was being followed through in good faith,'' Zuke said.
Told of Zuke's remarks, Riley R. Russell, Sega's general counsel, said, ''No comment.'' Asked why games with Marlboro logos still were in arcades, Russell said: ''I don't know.
''We have done what, under trademark law, is acceptable to the company, and that is make as many changes as we can possibly make,'' he said.
The AP first reported the existence of the logos in January 1990. Philip Morris said then it would demand an end to the practice. The logos were found in Sega video games called Super Monaco GP, an auto racing game, and Hang On, a motorcycle racing game.
Marlboro and Camel logos also appear in home video games, said Dr. John W. Richards of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He is president of Doctors Ought to Care, or DOC, an anti-smoking group.
Philip Morris said it had not authorized the use of its logos, because to do so would appear to be promoting cigarettes to children.
In some games, the logos have been altered slightly, so that a word like ''Marlbobo,'' for example, may appear in a typeface identical to the Marlboro logo, against the Marlboro red-roof background. At the normal speed of game play, the logos appear identical to Marlboro logos.
The number of games still carrying logos ''may be a very small percentage of what was on the market,'' Zuke said. He said he did not know how many games had been changed or how many were on the market.
Tom Petit, head of Sega's arcade game division, said those figures were confidential.
Rory Radding, a trademark attorney in New York, said Philip Morris would be within its rights in taking legal action to prevent the use of its logo.
''My recommendation to the guys doing the video is they better watch out,'' he said. ''That is definitely sue-able.''
''Trademarks go not only to the name but to the look, what's called the trade dress,'' he said. ''If you didn't see the Marlboro name but you just saw those colors, you'd say 'That's Marlboro.' ... If Philip Morris decides it's important enough to them, they'll bring an infringement suit.''
Richards, who first called attention to the logos in video games, said he has found Marlboro logos in home video games made by NEC and other game makers.
A Nintendo game called Al Unser Jr.'s Turboracing has a Marlboro logo on the box, said Richards. NEC's home game Final Lap has a Marlboro race car on the front of the box and Camel billboard and a Camel car in the game, he said.
Maura Payne, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which makes Camel cigarettes, said she was unaware of the use of the Camel logo in the game, but that she would turn the information over to the company's legal department.
Thomas Sarris, a Nintendo spokesman, said he didn't know what was on the box. He referred the question to people who make the game, and they didn't return a phone call.
Grant Schneider of NEC said the company had not been aware the logos were in the game, but would take ''immediate steps...to make changes.''