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.