Call of Duty

Activision Facing Trademark Lawsuit by 2017 Strategy Game Developer Over Warzone

Call of Duty publisher Activision is currently caught in a trademark lawsuit with a strategy game developer over Warzone.
Call of Duty publisher Activision is currently caught in a trademark lawsuit with a strategy game developer over Warzone. / Activision

Call of Duty publisher Activision is currently caught in a trademark lawsuit with a strategy game developer over Warzone.

The case was brought Activision, seeking a declaration that their attempts at registration and subsequent utilization of the Warzone trademark will not disrupt the game designed by Randy Ficker, the Washington-based developer of the 2017 turn-based strategy title of the same name. It's an interesting prospect to consider, keeping in mind that Call of Duty: Warzone didn't launch until three years after Ficker's game in 2020.

Activision Facing Trademark Lawsuit by 2017 Strategy Game Developer Over Warzone

Charges were filed in the District Court for the Central District of California on April 8 as what the company alleges is a response to Ficker's threat of legal action.

This all started when both parties filed trademark applications for Warzone last year--Activision in June and Ficker in October. Opposing litigations over the trademark were argued, where neither party was able to reconcile its use.

According to Activision, Ficker's lawyer sent them a "cease and desist" letter demanding the publisher change the name of COD: Warzone and withdraw their application on Nov. 20, 2020. They disputed the letter on Feb. 16, 2021.

This clearly drew ire from Ficker whose lawyer threatened to sue and demanded a financial settlement in early March. Activision refused, issuing a counterclaim, which was rejected a month later.

Activision wants two things from this suit: a legal declaration that it hasn't "infringed" on Ficker's game and to have its trademark application approved. The publisher's legal team stated that its use of the name "Warzone" was unlikely to cause confusion with Ficker's and as such was protected under the First Amendment.

"Activision's Call of Duty: Warzone could not be more different from Defendant's game, a low-budget, niche virtual board game-like Hasbro's Risk," they said, "Nevertheless, Defendant has claimed that Activision's Call of Duty: Warzone infringes Defendant's alleged trademark rights in the word 'Warzone'."

Ficker has since launched a GoFundMe campaign for legal fees on April 13. He has reached $13,000 USD of his $50,000 USD goal with 515 donors barely a day later. In his description, Ficker describes himself as an "indie game developer" who has dedicated most of his life to the development of his games. His Warzone and its previous iteration, WarLight, have been his only source of income for several years.

"Trademark law says that whoever uses a name first gets rights to it, just like someone can't make a game named "Minecraft" today. However, Activision thinks these laws don't apply to them." He wrote.

Additionally, he disputed Activision's claim that the two games are impossible to mistake for each other.

"Inconceivably, I get contacted all the time from people who are confusing our two games," he wrote, "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."

Litigation in this case is still ongoing.