Homestead's Coral Castle Sues Fortnite Developer for Using Its Name

Coral Castle is the name of a stage in Fortnite Battle Royale.
Coral Castle is the name of a stage in Fortnite Battle Royale. Photo from Coral Castle Inc. v. Epic Games Inc., U.S. District Court
click to enlarge Coral Castle is the name of a stage in Fortnite Battle Royale. - PHOTO FROM CORAL CASTLE INC. V. EPIC GAMES INC., U.S. DISTRICT COURT
Coral Castle is the name of a stage in Fortnite Battle Royale.
Photo from Coral Castle Inc. v. Epic Games Inc., U.S. District Court
Homestead's Coral Castle has been steadily creeping into sci-fi pop culture over the last 60 years.

Built by eccentric engineer Edward Leedskalnin, the limestone-megalith garden served as the set for the 1958 movie Wild Women of Wongo and the 1961 film Nude on the Moon.

Pop-punk icon Billy Idol sang about the place. And more recently, it was featured on a 2014 episode of History Channel's Ancient Aliens, where guests ruminated on how Leedskalnin supposedly used levitation to move around the massive stones he needed for the project.

A new lawsuit claims the sculpture garden is now making an appearance in the popular Fortnite Battle Royale online game, albeit without permission. (The suit was first reported by Polygon.)

Filed this past Friday in Miami federal court, the lawsuit alleges that developer Epic Games used the mythic castle as a stage in Fortnite before obtaining the required authorization from the property's current owner, Coral Castle Inc.

The stage called "Coral Castle" is part of an online battleground recently released to Fortnite players.

It includes "nautical/beach motifs, castle structures," and "stone objects" that are reminiscent of the Homestead tourist attraction, according to the lawsuit. Other locations on the map include "Sweaty Sands" and "Dirty Docks." The lawsuit claims that the virtual and real-life Coral Castles both "evoke the feeling of a centuries-old mysterious place."
click to enlarge The Coral Castle Museum in Homestead. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW DILLON/FLICKR
The Coral Castle Museum in Homestead.
The Coral Castle's owner says it holds registered and common-law trademarks for the Coral Castle name and that Epic Games "is utilizing the vast goodwill associated with the trademarks to promote the nautical theme" of the digital battleground.

The case lists counts for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Epic Games has not yet filed a response in court. The company did not respond to a request for comment from New Times.

Epic has had success in the past two years fending off trademark-related lawsuits over Fortnite's use of popular dance moves in gameplay.

Among those cases was a complaint filed by Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro, who claimed Epic Games nicked his signature dance move "The Carlton" and sold it to players for use with their Battle Royale characters. Ribeiro dropped the suit after the federal trademark office denied him a copyright on the dance.

According to Nielsen's SuperData review, Fortnite was the top-earning free-to-play game in 2019, hauling in an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue for Epic Games.

In an unrelated move last week, Apple and Google removed the game from their respective app stores, saying Epic violated their rules by implementing its own billing system for in-game purchases. Having long criticized the commissions charged by the two tech giants, Epic bit back with a federal court action demanding that Fortnite be restored to the app stores' virtual shelves.

As for the humble Coral Castle, the grounds remain closed on account of the coronavirus outbreak. Tickets ordinarily cost $18 for adults and $8 for kids under 12, with free entry to children aged six and younger.

The story goes that the stone structures at the property were built by Leedskalnin, a lovesick Latvian immigrant, over a period of nearly three decades beginning in the 1920s. Leedskalnin purportedly excavated and shaped more than 2 million pounds of limestone for what he initially called Rock Gate Park. He lived a modest life on the grounds for years, leading personal tours.

Still displayed in the sculpture garden is a stone admission sign dating back to the attraction's early days. Above a rusty pipe, it reads: "Adm. 10 cents. Drop below."
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Izzy Kapnick is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, covering environmental law, white-collar crime, and the healthcare industry. He has worked as a legal news reporter in South Florida since 2008.
Contact: Izzy Kapnick