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Is it illegal to make a restaurant from five nights at Freddy’s and make it into a real life Restaurant? It‘s just a thought that randomly came to mind.

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The game Five Nights at Freddy's and the other elements in the large media franchise of the same name are surely protected by copyright. In addition the name of the fictional restaurant in the game may well be protected as a trademark, and I would be astounded if "Five Nights at Freddy's" was not protected as a trademark. Other names and phrases may well be trademarked also.

If the suggested actual restaurant was at all closely based on the images and descriptions from the games or the novels, it would be a derivative work. Unless one had permission from the copyright owner, creating such a restaurant would be an act of wilful copyright infringement. The owner could sue, and quite likely win. In the US the owner could get up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each work that was infringed, which in this case might well mean several of the games and novels, depending on just what images and descriptions were imitated or used. Or the owner could elect to receive damages and profits, meaning all damage provably done to the owner, plus all profits made by the infringer. In addition to either, the owner might well obtain an injunction against further operations of the restaurant.

Beyond that, if the imitation used any of the trademarked names, slogans, or other protected trademarks, there could be a suit for trademark infringement. There could be no question that the marks were being used in commerce, and were not instances of nominative use. A restaurant is a very different thing from a video game, a novel, or a film, of course. No doubt it falls into a different trademark category. Normally trademark protection extends only to the category for which the mark is protected. But in the case of a "well-known" or "famous" mark, protection under US law is wider. Also, when the infringement might lead reasonable people to falsely belie that the infringing product or service has been endorsed, approved, or sponsored by the trademark owner, it may be a violation even in a significantly different category. This a successful suit for trademark infringement might well be possible also.

Of course, if the new restaurant only vaguely resembled the one in the games and novels, and did not use the phrase "Five Nights at Freddy's" or the name "Freddy Fazbear’s" or any other distinctive names from the media franchise, That might not be copyright or trademark infringement. But that would not seem to achieve the effect suggested by the question.

If the creator of the restaurant obtained permission from the copyright and trademark owner(s) then there would be no legal issue. But the owners might well not grant such permission, or might charge a high fee for it.

I doubt that the idea is workable.

As a side note, many years ago I regularly patronized a restaurant named "Bilbo's Pizza" It was decorated with murals obviously based on descriptions for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The intended reference was clear. They may have gotten permission from the Tolkien estate; I understand that Tolkien was rather free about granting such permissions. Or they may have just counted on word not coming to the copyright holder. But modern media franchise companies are probably much more watchful and much more quick to enforce IP rights.

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  • Bilbo's Pizza was opened in 1983. LOtR was in public domain then. The same for Houston's Hobbit Cafe. They don't have to pay royalties. In Europe though the work is not public domain and never was entitled do-nothing heirs to the estate use their legal monopoly on extort similar cafes in Europe twitter.com/savethehobbit Dec 23 '21 at 18:05
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    @Evan Carroll I ate at Bilbo's Pizza in E. Lansing in 1980 or 81. It started delivery in 83. The Kalamazoo one opened in 1976. But how do you conclude that LotR was PD in 1983? Tolkien died in 1973, so in Life+70 countries the copyright last until 2043. LotR was published in 1954-5, and will not be PD under US law until 2049, assuming the copyright was properly renewed in 1982, which i am sure it was. The second edition was published in 1965 in response to the Ace unauthorized edition, and might extend the copyright further. Dec 23 '21 at 18:30
  • @Evan Also, how is charging a fee for the use of IP "extortion"? Such fees are the basic principle of copyright and trademark protection, and are fully legal and IMO perectly moral. Dec 23 '21 at 18:33
  • "fully legal" not sure what that has to do with it unless you're saying anything the government declares as such isn't extortion. "perectly moral" we disagree: I don't think a child or trustee should have a superior claim to an idea that proceeded them because of their birthright. And when coerced to pay under threat of shuting down my business, that's extortion. It is extortion when the mafia does it, and the government seeing the profit in it and entering the business doesn't add legitimacy to it Dec 23 '21 at 19:00

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