Activision and indie developer Randy Ficker are locked in a legal dispute over the name Warzone.
In 2017, Ficker released an independent, browser-based strategy game called Warzone influenced by the popular board game RISK. In March 2020, Activision released Call of Duty: Warzone as a free-to-play battle royale game that was initially included as part of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Activision filed for trademarks for both Warzone and Call of Duty: Warzone in June 2020. Ficker applied for a trademark for just the term Warzone the following October, leading to trademark opposition still pending before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Ficker’s lawyer sent Activision a cease-and-desist letter demanding the company change the name of its game and give up the trademark. Activision obviously disputed the letter, leading to Ficker’s lawyer threatening legal action and demanding a monetary settlement. Activision provided a counter-proposal that was denied and is now filing a counter-suit.
Activision told Ficker that it’s “inconceivable that any member of the public could confuse the two products,” according to Ficker on a GoFundMe page where he’s raising money for the legal fight. Ficker alleges this is untrue and draws attention to Activision’s marketing of the game solely as Warzone instead of Call of Duty: Warzone.
The basis of Ficker’s argument regarding the trademark applications is that “if you use a name in commerce before someone else, they can’t sue you to get rights for that name.” According to the USPTO, “you become a trademark owner as soon as you start using your trademark with your goods or services.” While Ficker would have greater protections had he registered the trademark first, this distinction made by the USPTO could help him win his argument.
So far, no official decision has been made regarding either the trademark dispute or the lawsuit.