Activision in trademark dispute with indie dev who made a game called Warzone three years before them
Last year, Activision filed to trademark Warzone, the name of their popular Call Of Duty battle royale. However, an indie developer behind a browser-based strategy game that’s also called Warzone sent a cease-and-desist to stop them. Fast forward to this year, and Activision have filed a lawsuit to declare that the two games couldn’t possibly be confused, and the indie Warzone dev has started a GoFundMe to raise enough money to fight the publisher in court. Strap in, this one’s a tad messy.
According to the complaint Activision filed last week, the publisher filed for US trademarks for both Warzone and Call Of Duty: Warzone in connection with “downloadable video game software” and “entertainment services” last June. Then in October, the developer behind the web-based Warzone (which I’ll try to refer to as Warzone.com from now on to minimise confusion), Ricky Ficker, also filed for a trademark on Warzone. It’s worth noting that Warzone.com launched in 2017, three years before COD: Warzone came out in 2020.
In November last year, Ficker filed an opposition against Activision’s trademark attempt, claiming that the game names had already confused players, and would continue to do so. Shortly after that, he sent a cease-and-desist, demanding that Activision change the name of their battle royale, and stop their trademark applications. Ficker also claimed he “would be within [his] rights to seek to enjoin Activision from using the Warzone mark and to recover monetary relief as a result of Activision’s infringing use”. Activision, as you might expect, disputed all of that.
The main point of Activision’s complaint is to combat the idea that the near identical game names would cause confusion. They’re telling the court that Call Of Duty: Warzone doesn’t infringe on Warzone.com’s trademark, because the games themselves are so vastly different.
“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,” the publisher claims. “Indeed, it is inconceivable that any member of the public could confuse the two products or believe that they are affiliated with or related to each other.”
Ficker, however, is having absolutely none of that. He’s started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to combat Activision in court.
“Hello, my name is Randy, and I’m being sued by Activision for being an indie game developer,” he says. “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.
“The law is clear: If you use a name in commerce before someone else, they can’t sue you to get rights for that name. ”
Ficker says that his game is frequently mistaken for Call Of Duty: Warzone, despite Activision’s claims to the contrary, stating that he receives emails “all the time” from people asking questions about the battle royale. He also notes that that the Twitch category he set up for his game is filled with people playing Call Of Duty: Warzone.
“100% of the funds raised in this GoFundMe will be directly used in the legal fight against Activision,” Ficker says. At the time of writing, it’s raised $12,236 of its $50,000 goal (roughly £8,800 of £36,000).
I’ve contacted Activision for further comment on the Warzone dispute, and will update this post if get a response.
And now I need to go lie down, because Warzone no longer looks like a word.