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Activision scores First Amendment victory in Humvee trademark lawsuit

Activision has come out on top in a trademark lawsuit brought against it by Humvee maker AM General. 

The automotive manufacturer filed the lawsuit in 2017 and claimed Activision had illegally used the Humvee brand in its popular Call of Duty series. 

“[Call of Duty’s success came] at the expense of AM General and consumers who are deceived into believing that AM General licenses the games or is somehow connected with or involved in the creation of the games,” said AM in a statement from 2017.

Three years on, and a New York federal judge had now sided with Activision in its assertion that the First Amendment allowed it to feature AM General vehicles in the franchise so it could accurately depict modern warfare. 

“Both parties agree that at least ‘some of the vehicles’ in the Call of Duty games are representative of those that a real-life soldier would expect to see in the time and place depicted,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels in a summary judgement. 

“Both parties also agree that U.S. and foreign militaries use Humvees in operations around the world. If realism is an artistic goal, then the presence in modern warfare games of vehicles employed by actual militaries undoubtedly furthers that goal.” 

Daniels also refuted the notion that Activision intentionally included the Humvee brand in Call of Duty to confuse consumers and boost the franchise’s credentials.

“[AM] contends that [Activision] replicated the Humvee design in its games with the ‘admitted intention that consumers would recognize it as a Humvee,’ but recognition is not confusion,” he added.

“While both parties have the general ‘purpose’ of seeing products for profits, [AM’s] purported purpose is far too abstract to argue reasonable confusion. Put simply, [AM’s] purpose in using its mark is to sell vehicles to militaries, while [Activision’s] purpose is to create realistically simulating modern warfare video games for purchase by consumers.”

You can read the judgement in full by checking out the court documents (PDF) uploaded by The Hollywood Reporter.