Kotaku reports that Textron, the parent company of Bell Helicopters, asked EA on December 21 to cease the depictions of three of its aircraft found in Battlefield 3. Last Friday, EA did a pre-emptive tactical suit against Textron, saying the helicopters are "protected by the First Amendment and the doctrine of nominative fair use."
EA states that the Bell helicopters aren't highlighted or given any great distinction in the game. The publisher also claims the aircraft are just "a few of countless creative visual, audio, plot and programming elements that make up EA's expressive work, a first-person military combat simulation."
The publisher won a similar suit last year against Ex-Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart, who believed his likeness was used in NCAA Football without consent. The judge felt EA's First Amendment rights to free expression outweighed Hart's right to protect his likeness, despite the character in the game having "Hart's physical attributes, sports statistics, and biographical information in mind."
Speaking of First Amendment protections, Electronic Arts claims it has no individual position on SOPA, but wants the law to bail it out here ... mmm, chewy irony.