Epic Games’ Fortnite dance lawsuits continue, but this time, Epic is striking first. On Oct. 30, Matthew Geiler — better known as “Dancing Pumpkin Man” — and his creative consulting company, Sick Picnic Media, drafted a cease-and-desist letter to the Fortnite creator, threatening a lawsuit regarding the game’s Pump It Up emote.
Epic responded to the cease-and-desist and then filed a preemptive complaint seeking a judge’s ruling on the matter, as first reported by The Verge. On Dec. 9, Epic filed its complaint against Geiler and Sick Picnic Media, claiming that Dancing Pumpkin Man isn’t a trademarked character, so Geiler can’t enforce a cease-and-desist.
The Pump It Up emote transforms players’ heads into flaming pumpkins as they dance like Geiler in his Dancing Pumpkin Man viral video, seen below. The emote was purchasable for a single day during this year’s Fortnitemares event.
Epic’s complaint is a threat in response to a threat — it says that Epic will take Geiler to court if he and Sick Picnic Media don’t retract their cease-and-desist. Despite having a licensing agreement with Epic, which he admitted to in a Facebook comment this year, Geiler and Sick Picnic Media demanded Epic stop using Dancing Pumpkin Man’s likeness. The letter also indicated that Geiler was “prepared to take all necessary actions to protect the Dancing Pumpkin Man character.”
An Epic representative told Polygon it doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation. Neither Geiler nor Sick Picnic Media responded before publication time.
Epic used its legal weight to attempt to decimate the very image of Dancing Pumpkin Man. In section four of its complaint, Epic’s lawyers claim that nothing about the Dancing Pumpkin Man is originally created for the video, citing that Geiler didn’t make the leotard or the pumpkin mask he donned, nor did he compose the song he danced to.
Epic again flexes its strength in the allegations section, where it proceeds to tell the history of various pumpkin head types and pumpkin characters, with images, to suggest the pumpkin character wasn’t necessarily an original idea, either.
Epic wants a judge to say there’s no violation on Epic’s part before Dancing Pumpkin Man can officially file a suit. If Geiler and Sick Picnic Media don’t retract their cease-and-desist — tantamount to giving Epic permission to continue using the Dancing Pumpkin Man likeness — the studio will pursue a suit against Geiler before he can sue Epic.
This isn’t the first time Epic’s been involved in a legal battle over an in-game dance. In March 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that companies like Epic are protected from many of these legal attacks, and accusers dropped several lawsuits against the company.