AM General Suing Call Of Duty Developers Over HMMWV Usage

Most people might not know what a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle is but if you asked them about a HUMVEE or HMMWV, they’ll probably understand.

The vehicle is one of the most iconic military machines in the world and it is one of AM General’s best known products. As a result, the company is pretty protective of the vehicle and recently filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard Inc for incorporating its trademarks into various video games without permission.

According to Reuters, AM General is upset that HMMWVs are prominently featured in video games such as the Call of Duty series as well as toys and books that Activision licenses out to third parties. The success of the series shouldn’t be underestimated as Call of Duty became the world’s largest console franchise in 2016 and sales topped 250 million units last year which resulted in more than $15 billion in revenue.

The automaker says these profits come 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.” AM General has been in discussions with Activision for over a year but decided to go the legal route after the talks failed to result in a settlement.

The lawsuit is asking for compensatory, punitive, and triple damages. It will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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  • Zandit75

    Considering these games are made with the cooperation of the US/British Military, it will be interesting to see where the blame lands for this, and if there is an actual case to answer.

    • Status

      AM General is a federal contractor, not a national military, and the case would likely fall into a category of one private sector entity versus another over the use intellectual or tangible property without prior agreement.

      • Zandit75

        Possibly. It’s going to be an interesting case to follow.

  • TB

    Umm…really? Seriously…I don’t think anyone who plays Call of Duty does so specifically for the HMMWV’s. In additionl, I think it safe to say that no one “…are deceived into believing that AM General licenses the games or is somehow connected with or involved in the creation of the games.”

    I’m just not seeing any of that….nope…sorry…

    • Zandit75

      It’s intellectual Property. The design belongs to them. That’s where this has come from, they obviously didn’t ask for permission before using the design, which was probably supplied by the military connections.

      • Ken Lyns

        The HMMWV went into service in 1984. Assuming AM General filed design patents at the time, they would’ve expired in 1998 (14 years).

        • Zandit75

          While Patents are part of Intellectual Property, it is not the full picture.
          If you were to build a vehicle identical in every way to the HMMWV, you could be sued for the same thing Activision is.

          • Ken Lyns

            The other elements of IP, trademarks and copyrights, don’t apply to in-game models, unless Activision did something stupid like putting AM General’s logo on the vehicles or imported actual CAD models created by AM General during game development.

            That’s probably one of the reasons other defense contractors like Gen Dynamics (Abrams tank) and Lockheed Martin (AC-130, F-22, Blackhawk helicopters) haven’t bothered suing Activision.

        • Status

          Patents and trade names can also be renewed over time. Why do you think GM keeps renewing the Pontiac name if they have no intention of restarting the brand? AM General clearly hasn’t let the many patents for HMMWV lapse, and likely still retains the IP.

          • Ken Lyns

            Patents can’t be renewed. 😉 That’s the whole point (so the innovator doesn’t have a monopoly on a feature forever). Trademarks can be renewed yes, but that’s only relevant if Activision put AM General’s name or logo on the vehicles in-game.

            And patents only cover the actual product, not artistic renderings. i.e. if you built an SUV that replicated HMMWV styling before AM General’s patents expired, you could be sued successfully. Once the patents expire, it’s a free-for-all. That’s why there are 100 companies making AR15 clones (Bushmaster, DPMS, H-K, LWRC, Wilson Combat…) without paying royalties to Colt.

  • Ridiculous…then what about GTA5 then? I don’t see Ferrari, Chrysler, M-B, FORD, BMW, McClaren, etc., suing…AM General must be hurting for cash and desperate…

    • Zandit75

      As I mentioned above, they obviously have not asked for the correct permissions in order to use the design which belongs to AM General as Intellectual Property.
      The reason you don’t see the other brands suing is because they did not use the exact same design. Enough was changed that it was not a direct copy.
      Having said that, many mods are available from people who have taken those slightly different designs, and modded them into exact copies. This has probably had some people receiving stop and desist orders, but that’s another topic altogether.

    • Status

      The reason that you don’t see those cars in GTA5 is because those cars are facsimiles. Rockstar would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollar in licensing fees just to use the name and likeness of cars from known auto manufactures. On the other hand, no automaker in the world would ever agree to taking money from Rockstar to have their licensed products and trade name appear in an violent video game.

      What Rockstar does is make a car that looks like a blend of 2 or 3 different existing cars so that no legal arm of an automaker can say that Rockstar is deliberately using their intellectual property, likenesses, trade name, and associated branding in an malicious intent to defame or mislead the public that the automaker somehow endorses GTA5.

  • David mcCreery

    Call of Duty is a driving game right? Oh, it isn’t! Meh, I’ll still get it because I want to drive a hummer…

  • Ken Lyns

    In all likelihood this lawsuit will be settled for pennies on the dollar and we’ll never hear about it again. It’ll come down to the legal technicalities where Activision used the shape of HMMWVs without putting AM General’s logo on the vehicles. Any design patents AM General held (on the “styling”) would have long expired.

    • Status

      If it can be proven that design characteristics or traits unique to AM General’s HMMWV that are detailed in their patent documents are replicated in a 3d model in the game, Activision may subject to licensing fees, or they’ll simply issue a patch. What do you think is easier for them to do?

  • thunder bolt

    Boeing should sue for using F/A-18, and Apache helicopter
    Lima Army Tank Plant should sue for using A-1 Abrams
    Elbit Systems should sue for night vision gogles
    Any company that makes AK-47 and AR-15 should sue as well.

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