Activision launches lawsuit against indie game dev over Warzone trademark

    
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RPS has a juicy piece up this week on a lawsuit Activision is waging against an indie game developer that should probably prompt Activision to graciously move on. But it’s Activision, so of course instead it’s turning into a big lawsuit and articles that make it look like a jerk stomping all over indie developers who came up with an idea first, even if Activision does have a point.

This one revolves around an indie browser game called Warzone, which launched back in 2017. Activision, you’ll recall, launched Call of Duty: Warzone last year, attempting to trademark the word. The developer of Warzone.com, Ricky Ficker, then had to attempt to file his own trademark and oppose to Activision’s filing, issuing a cease-and-desist to Activision to get it to stop using the name of his pre-existing game for Call of Duty. It also looks as if there were other monetary demands and counterproposals along the way too. Activision is now suing him to strip him of any rights he has to the mark.

Remember, the point of trademark is to minimize confusion over what an exclusive branding-related word refers to. Blizzard is trying to convince everyone that nobody would be confused over this because the games are different (Activision actually dunks on this earlier game in its filing, calling it a “low-budget, niche virtual board game”). But Ficker has offered up emails from players – and people mistakenly using his custom Twitch category for his game – who are most definitely confused.

“I get contacted all the time from people who are confusing our two games. People tell me all about how their xbox can’t connect, or how their PS4 got hacked, how they wish they could carry teammates, etc. My game isn’t even on xbox or ps4. I send the same reply to each of them: ‘Warzone and Call of Duty: Warzone are different games. You should contact Activision.’ Years ago, I set up a category on twitch for fans of my game to stream it. Today, it’s filled with people streaming Activision’s game. Go look at it right now. That’s my logo, can you find even one person streaming my game? The regular streamers of my game are frustrated by this, but apparently it’s inconceivable to Activision that this could happen.”

(If you’re thinking “no one is that dumb,” trust us, people are definitely that dumb; folks still send us confused email about some of the games we cover, thinking we’re responsible for making them.)

Perhaps the most convincing element of Activision’s lawsuit is its non-exhaustive list of 16 other games that use the word “warzone,” which it offers by way of arguing that Ficker shouldn’t be entitled to it… but of course, that also looks like a bit of a self-own for Activision’s own claim, as well as an admission that Activision thinks that it itself is entitled to take it from all of those other games only because it’s bigger and richer.

In any case, Ficker is fighting back and is attempting to raise funds to defend his game’s name from one of the largest video game companies in the entire world. “Hello, my name is Randy, and I’m being sued by Activision for being an indie game developer,” the GoFundMe begins. “In 2017, I launched my indie game Warzone. In 2020, Activision launched “Call of Duty: Warzone” and is now suing me to steal the name (banking on my limited resources).” Thus far, he’s raised almost $16,000.

Activision doesn’t really have a great track record for anything over the last few years, but hey, here’s one more. Are you tired? I’m tired.

Source: Lawsuit, RPS, GoFundMe
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Dankey Kang

Good ol’ ActiBlizz. Never missing an opportunity to make themselves look like scumbags.

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Utakata

Next up, Activision sues AccuWeather for using blizzard to describe a really bad snow storm…

Saluka
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Saluka

I’m going to delibrately name my next game Warzone

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Zuldar

As much as I dislike Activision the idea of trademarking a single word is just dumb. This really isn’t any different than that guy who tried to copyright the word edge (among others).

If it was a completely unique word or even a word unrelated to conflict or militaries maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s a completely generic word for that genre.

I do wonder though, what would happen if the situation was reversed? If another company called their game “Game Title”: The Call of Duty or something like that would Activision be ok with it? My guess is they would absolutely C&D that other company and probably sue as well.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

The problem is… they keep getting away with it. The guy *did* trademark the word “Edge,” then immediately tried to sue SoulEdge. Which is why the series turned into SoulCaliber (and I might be getting it wrong, because the ‘caliber’ part was deliberately spelled in a non-standard way just in case anyone else got the same bright idea.)

The Candy Crush people managed to trademark *candy.* In Comics, between DC and Marvel they’ve slapped trademarks on the common names of like half the widely known animals on the planet.

(Go ahead, write a comic book, put in a character of *any* kind using the nickname ‘Wolverine.’ Let us know what it’s like to be at ground zero of an Orbital Lawyer Bombardment.)

Bethesda managed to trademark ‘Scrolls’ and ‘Prey.’ And have weaponized both against other game devs. And CDPR managed to get a trademark on “cyberpunk,” the name of an entire GENRE of fiction. (And one that they most certainly didn’t invent.)

That’s not even counting abusive stuff like Disney essentially negating the rules about how things are meant to enter public domain after a reasonable length of time. Whatever the original intent, Trademark and Copyright law now belong to whoever has the deepest pockets, and are used almost exclusively for the benefit of massive corporations as they stomp everyone else into the dirt. Oh, disagree with their interpretation? They’ll see you in court, then bury you in paperwork and counter filings until you go bankrupt or die of old age.

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Bruno Brito

Yeah, i’m tired of this company.

Jesus Christ. Why do i even expect anything from them?

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David Goodman

Richard Hoeg has a great video and write-up on the lawsuit.

TL;DR: Essentially, Activision was pre-emptively suing him because Ricky made comments that he was going to sue THEM for using his trademark of Warzone and prevent them from using Warzone in their game. (Please note ,that he did not have a registration for that trademark, he only submitted it after Activision did theirs. This doesn’t mean he’s without legal protection, but it is an issue.)

So Activision preemptively sued, and is seeking a declaratory … relief? Injunction? Basically, seeking a legal declaration that Acttvision is NOT infringing on Ricky’s trademark, and that Activision’s registration of Warzone be allowed to continue, while Ricky’s not be allowed. (‘i aint no fancy lawyer hyperchicken)

It doesn’t ask Risky to stop using Warzone or anything of the sort, and the only financial damages requested are legal fees (and an almost obligatory “and other such fees as the court deems appropriate”)

Honestly, I don’t think that Ricky is in the right here, for all that he’s the Little Guy in this fight. He saw Activision was attempting to trademark Warzone and issued a cease & desist to them, probably hoping to score easy money in what he thought was a clear, open-and-shut case.

Wanna know what would have happened if he didn’t do anything?

Activision wouldn’t have cared one fraction of a crap. There’s no money in suing a solo indie developer of a web / mobile game. They’re not even after that now.

It would have been a better case to argue that the word “warzone” independently is not a defensible trademark, rather than that Activision is infriging on HIS only-just-now-made trademark rights.

And while I do agree and absolutely know that people ARE that dumb, the legal standard is that no ‘reasonable person’ could confuse them. There are a lot of unreasonable people, and the lowest standard of humanity is not the bar we aim for.

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Kickstarter Donor
Java Jawa

What’s next suing the oxford dictionary for listing words?

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McGuffn

Sue the Pentagon for referring to a battlefield. Activision can get EA to brutalize them too.

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Java Jawa

lol exactly, while we are at it, I Call this whole thing a pile of Duty . . .

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McGuffn

Activision is a garbage company. And the people that run it are really trashy too.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

stone cold says so.png
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Jeremy Barnes

**** Activision, but no one should ever have been given a mark on the word “Warzone” which is why our copyright laws need a massive change.