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NovaLogic Sues Activision Over Use of Delta Force in Modern Warfare 3

By
Posted on May 15, 2012 AT 01:03pm

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, players can control an elite military operative group known as Delta Force. The problem? That name conflicts with the trademark for a series of games from developer NovaLogic.

The question originally seems very cut and dry. “Delta Force” is the name of a military group, so even if NovaLogic is using it for their games, Activision should be in the clear for using it in Call of Duty as well, right?

Well—as reported by the Courthouse News Service, NovaLogic notes in their federal complaint that there is no actual military division called Delta Force.

“There is no unit of the U.S. Army called Delta Force. There is a branch of the Army’s Special Operations known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta (’1st SF-ODD’). The U.S. Army officially denies that any unit called Delta Force exists and does not claim ownership to either the Delta Force name or the logo. Although there is much lore surrounding special operation units, only because of the ‘Delta Force’ series does the general public identify the logo with any ancillary existing military unit.”

NovaLogic’s complaint goes on to state that Activision knowingly infringed on the company’s trademarks, including their Delta Force logo. (In the above image, you can see NovaLogic’s logo for Delta Force on the left, and the logo used in Modern Warfare 3 for the Delta Force on the right.)

“Despite Activision’s irrefutable knowledge of NovaLogic’s superior trademark rights, Activision created knockoff marks that are nearly identical [to] NovaLogic’s design and word marks. Activision then shamelessly inserted these infringing marks throughout its competing first person military adventure video games.”

But! Let’s throw things back in Activision’s favor now, however. In 1983, Retired Colonel Charles Alvin Beckwith wrote the book Delta Force: The Army’s Elite Counterterroist Unit. Beckwith is credited with creating the real-life Delta Force, and along with that, his book—on its front cover—prominently featured the same unofficial Delta Force logo that NovaLogic used for their games.

Part of the reason that NovaLogic may have been granted the trademarks that they were is because we’re dealing with what is essentially a secret military organization. If the government says that Delta Force doesn’t exist, then you can make up a Delta Force, right? Except, that you’re making up something that does exist—just in secret. But since it’s secret—well, you get the idea.

Given that this is a complex legal case—made even more complex due to the fact that we’re dealing with secret military teams—it’s hard to make a definitive statement in terms of which side I’d fall on in this lawsuit. However, personally, it’s hard to fault Activision or Infinity Ward in all of this. Sure, specific names or insignias may not be officially or publicly recognized by the U.S. Army, but it’s easy to believe the real-life connection that seems to be there. If Activision were releasing a game such as Call of Duty: Delta Force, I could absolutely see where NovaLogic would have a valid argument. Including a group known as Delta Force as part of the game, on the other hand, is a move I see as being totally justifiable.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Courthouse News Service

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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