You often see disclaimers in videos or games that similarities to real-life people are purely coincidental in a work of fiction. There are times, however, when such content is intentionally designed to bear similarities to real-world people or objects. Sometimes those are products of licensing agreements and partnerships. AM General, the maker of one of the most identifiable military vehicles in the world, wanted something along those lines when it sued Activision for putting Humvees in Call of Duty games. A judge, however, ruled that the game developer has a First Amendment right to do so.
AM General was, unfortunately, a victim of its own popularity and its own arguments. The Humvee, after all, is one of the most iconic vehicles in military use. Not to include it in a game that aims for military realism would not only be unreal, it would probably also be an insult to AM General’s pride.
Of course, what the government contractor probably really wants is a slice of Call of Duty’s popularity and profits. It does license the Humvee to other games and toymakers, after all. Unfortunately for the vehicle-maker, New York federal judge George B. Daniels didn’t buy its arguments and, in fact, found those arguments to be ironically in favor of Activision instead.
AM General cited previous cases that ruled in favor of the trademark holder, except that case hinged around confusion and competition between two products. The judged ruled that it is hardly the case here since Activision isn’t selling Humvees. He even remarks that AM General’s licensing isn’t even central to its main business of making and selling Humvees.
In the end, Judge Daniels ruled that it was within Activision’s First Amendment rights to depict Humvees in its game. It was, in effect, a result of realism being an artistic goal that is protected by that constitutional right. It remains to be seen if AM General will appeal the summary judgment ruling.