Activision and indie dev clash over Warzone trademark

The indie dev behind the webgame Warzone sent a cease and desist to Activision last year over the AAA studio's attempt to trademark its own use of Warzone. Now Activision has fired back with its own legal complaint.

The indie developer behind the RISK-like webgame Warzone has found himself in an escalating legal conflict with Call of Duty developer Activision over the triple-A company's own attempt to trademark Warzone for its 2020 battle royale game Call of Duty: Warzone.

Activision's complaint itself is a rebuttal to a back and forth over those dueling game names detailed further below, and ultimately hinges on the argument that the webgame developed by Randy "Fizzer" Ficker cannot conceivably be mistaken for Activision's Call of Duty: Warzone due to a number of factors like its visuals, gameplay, and logo.

In a GoFundMe page Ficker created to raise the cash needed to continue the fight against Activision, he argues that confusion between the two games has already happened and will likely continue on in the future, so long as the two games share a similar name.

"Here's what Activision says in their lawsuit: 'it is inconceivable that any member of the public could confuse the two products'. Inconceivably, I get contacted all the time from people who are confusing our two games," argues Ficker.

As detailed on the GoFundMe page, that confusion ranges from a myriad of support emails from players complaining of issues on Xbox or PS4 (Ficker's game is web, iOS, and Android only) all the way to the Twitch category for Ficker's Warzone routinely being overrun by streamers playing Activison's Call of Duty: Warzone.

"The regular streamers of my game are frustrated by this, but apparently it's inconceivable to Activision that this could happen," says Ficker.

Activision's complaint, filed April 8, 2021 and found in full here, is the latest escalation of a back and forth that has quietly been nearing its boiling point since Activision first filed a trademark for Warzone in 2020 and was met with a cease-and-desist from Ficker.

Ficker's Warzone launched in 2017 as a sequel to his similar turn-based strategy game WarLight, and the game has since expanded from web browsers to iOS and Android via Warzone Idle. Activision's Warzone, meanwhile, launched on March 10, 2020 as a standalone, battle royale mode in its prolific Call of Duty series.

As outlined in Activision's complaint, the two games co-existed peacefully for a matter of months, up until later that year when Activision applied to register a trademark for Warzone and Call of Duty: Warzone in relation to "downloadable video game software, downloadable video and computer game programs" and "entertainment services, namely, providing online video games."

Ficker had used the name Warzone prior to both the Call of Duty game and Activision's attempt to seek a trademark, but didn't himself apply for a trademark (specifically for "providing online non-downloadable game software") until October 2020.

Shortly after that filing, Ficker filed a notice of opposition to Activision's trademark application over possible confusion between the two similarly named games and followed that up in late November with a cease and desist letter ordering Activision to "change the name of its games, stop using Warzone’s Warzone mark, and abandon the trademark applications," according to Activision's latest legal filing.

According to Activision, the two developers continued a back-and-forth for several months which included a settlement demand from Ficker's legal team, a counterproposal from Activision's legal team that was rejected by Ficker and team days before Activision's legal complaint was filed.

Activision is ultimately asking for the court to declare Activison's use of Warzone to be non-infringing so that its trademark application may move forward, and block Ficker both from seeking his own Warzone trademark and bar him from interfering with, opposing, seeking to cancel, or otherwise objecting to Activision's use and registration of the Warzone and Call of Duty Warzone trademarks.

The complaint also includes requests for the reimbursement of "reasonable attorney’s fees and costs" as well as "other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper."

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