On April 8, Activision filed a formal complaint against the indie developer behind the browser-based strategy game Warzone. The complaint is over the usage and trademark rights for the “Warzone” title, which the two companies have been in dispute about for the last several months.
The primary dispute is over whether or not Activision has the right to use “Warzone” as part of the title for its Call of Duty battle royale, and whether or not it can trademark the name. The Warzone strategy game was developed by Randy Ficker, who is not named in the complaint and is instead identified as Warzone.com.
Ficker first published his strategy game in 2017, however he didn’t file a trademark for the name until October 2020. Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Warzone was released in March 2020, with a trademark first filed in June 2020.
According to Activision, on Nov. 20, 2020, Warzone.com’s counsel sent a cease and desist letter “demanding that Activision ‘change the name of its games, stop using Warzone’s WARZONE mark, and abandon the trademark applications.’” Activision also claims that Warzone.com has threatened legal action against the company over the name, including seeking “massive damages.”
This creates what Activision calls an “actual and live controversy as to the parties’ respective rights to use or register trademarks that include the word ‘Warzone.’” Activision also points out that both its own use of Warzone, and the use by Warzone.com, are far from the only games with similar titles.
Warzone.com’s initial assertion for blocking Activision’s trademark was that the name caused significant confusion between Activision’s Call of Duty game and the Warzone strategy game. However, Activision claims in its complaint that the games are so different that confusion seems unlikely, or even impossible.
“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 where players take turns moving numbers (representing “armies”) across a map of the world. 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,” Activision says in its complaint.
However, on a GoFundMe page set up to fund Warzone.com’s legal battle with Activision, Randy Ficker, the developer of browser game, claims that the confusion has already happened.
“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,’” said Ficker in his post.
In its complaint, Activision says that it attempted to negotiate a settlement. However, after both sides rejected offers, Activision says Warzone.com stopped negotiating.
Now Activision is seeking an official judgment in the case, which it seems will be met with Ficker’s own legal defense — according to his GoFundMe page.
Polygon has reached out to Activision for comment.
Update: In a statement to Polygon, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said:
The defendant named in this suit has baselessly threatened the company. We do not infringe his intellectual property. We are filing this action so the court can reject his frivolous and irresponsible claims.