Activision Files Lawsuit Over the Rights to Use the Word Warzone in the Call Of Duty Series
On April 8, 2021, Activision Publishing, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Warzone.com LLC regarding the use of the word marks “Warzone” and “Call of Duty Warzone.” Activision is the publisher of the Call of Duty series of military-themed “first-person shooter” games. Warzone.com is the developer of a multiplayer turn-based strategy and negotiation game similar to Hasbro’s Risk.
Activision’s complaint alleges that, in 2020, Activision released a free-to-play multiplayer game titled Call of Duty: Warzone, a “large-scale, highly competitive, fast-paced military combat game in which 150 players fight to be the last soldier standing in a massive, detailed, fully-realized ‘Warzone,’ spanning more than nine square kilometers of virtual space.” Activision alleges that Warzone.com’s game Warzone, which Warzone.com claims was released in 2017, is a “low-budget, niche virtual board game” where players “take turns moving numbers (representing ‘armies’) across a map of the world.” The complaint alleges that Warzone is available on Warzone.com’s website and on mobile devices, but, unlike Call of Duty: Warzone, not on game consoles.
The dispute between the two parties originated in June 2020, after Activision filed applications to register the trademarks “Warzone” and “Call of Duty Warzone.” Warzone.com opposed Activision’s applications and filed its own trademark applications to register the mark “Warzone.” Activision alleges that Warzone.com has demanded that Activision change the name of its games, stop using the word “Warzone,” and abandon Activision’s trademark applications.
Warzone.com claims that Activision’s use of “Warzone” in its game title, marketing, and advertising has confused members of the public, including players of Warzone. Activision contends its use of “Warzone” and “Call of Duty Warzone” is not likely to cause consumer confusion because the parties’ games are so different in style, gameplay, appearance, trade channels, consumer base, and design mark sand logos. Activision’s complaint lists 16 other games with the word “Warzone” in their titles that are available as a browser-based game or on mobile devices. At this time, Call of Duty: Warzone is not available on mobile devices.
In its complaint, Activision seeks a judgment declaring that, among other things, (1) Warzone.com does not possess exclusive trademark rights to the term “Warzone”; (2) Activision use of “Warzone” or “Call of Duty Warzone” marks do not infringe and has not infringed on Warzone.com’s alleged trademark; (3) Activision is entitled to have its pending trademark applications for “Warzone” and “Call of Duty Warzone” to mature to registration; and (4) Warzone.com’s pending trademark applications should not proceed.
The outcome of this lawsuit could have interesting implications for how courts analyze consumer confusion and public perception of games in various media. For instance, when considering game titles and potential intellectual property rights, game developers may need to research and consider games in broader channels than before, including in genres that are not in direct competition.
The lawsuit is currently pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California as Case No. 2:21-cv-03073.