Gaming giant Activision has emerged victorious in a lawsuit brought against it by the makers of Humvee vehicles who claimed the publisher was infringing on their trademark.
A New York judge has dismissed the lawsuit from General Motors, bringing an end to this case. The lawsuit dates back to 2017 when GM sued Activision for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising, among other things. Activision responded (via The Verge) by saying it had the protection of the First Amendment to use the image of real-world military equipment in its franchise.
Activision’s lawyers said GM was acting in bad faith by trying to use a trademark to control the creative use of a US military vehicle paid for by American taxpayers and used in every war and conflict for decades.
Judge George Daniels said the Call of Duty franchise passed the “Rogers test,” a landmark ruling from the 1980s which relates to trademarked names in creative uses. According to Daniels, Activision’s use of Humvees in Call of Duty games “have artistic relevance.”
“Featuring actual vehicles used by military operations around the world in video games about simulated modern warfare surely evokes a sense of realism and lifelikeness to the player who assumes control of a military solider and fights against a computer-controller or human-controller opponent across a variety of computer-generated battlefields,” Daniels said.
The judge went on: “Upon reviewing a copy of the Call of Duty game, the court explained that the uses of the plaintiff’s name and logo easily met the artistic relevance requirement under Rogers because they have players a sense of particularized reality of being part of an actual elite special forces operation and served as a means to increase specific realism of the game.”
“Any reasonable juror would conclude that the presence of Humvees in Call of Duty games possesses an artistic value that is at least above zero.
The judge also ruled that Activision’s use of Humvees in Call of Duty games is not “explicitly misleading.” The Call of Duty games never position Activision as the owner or creator of the vehicles.
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