I am developing an indie 2D game. Some of the enemies are caricatures of famous characters but there is no explicit reference to their name (the only reference is that if the caricature is of a politician then the level is for example set in a Parlament).
Is this legal? Has anyone of you had a similar issues with your own projects or clients?
I remember similar cases such as games like that seems to have been able to publish it without legal issues:
"International Super Star Soccer Deluxe" by Konamy that were representing real football players but modifyied the names as they didn't have the FIFA license (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Superstar_Soccer_Deluxe).
Street Fighter the character Balrog is similar to Mike Tyson (see
this link) but the developers changed the name in order to avoid legal sues by Tyson.
A few years ago I worked on a game for a large corporation (5,000+ employees) which included several caricatures of famous politicians.
Our legal department validated it with the only proviso being to neither include any real names nor explicit references to individuals.
The company is UK based but the game was published online.
Whilst it's worth getting counsel for your particular case I thought my experience might provide you with some encouragement.
Consult an attorney.
No designer is going to know the answer to this question. All answers will merely be guesses.
You need to speak to someone familiar with legal-ease.