May 23 2014
Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed Over “Angry Monkey” Uniform Patch Option In “Call Of Duty: Ghosts”
A San Jose-based retailer of military and tactical gear has filed a lawsuit in federal district court, alleging that its “Angry Monkey” patch design and registered trademark improperly appear in the video game Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Call of Duty: Ghosts features an online multiplayer mode which reportedly allows players to create a customized soldier avatar from a limited range of options. These customization options include the patch that appears on the avatar’s uniform, and which appears in the “heads-up displays” of other players encountered during online game play.
In its complaint filed May 22 against Activision Blizzard and Activision Publishing, plaintiff Mil-Spec Monkey, Inc. alleges that one of the sixteen patch options offered to game players is an “angry monkey” design that is confusingly similar to MSM’s popular “angry monkey” original design and trademark. MSM further claims that the patch design was given certain prominence in online advertising for the game–a use which, MSM asserts, causes or is likely to cause consumer confusion regarding MSM’s affiliation or endorsement of the game.
MSM generally alleges causes of action against the defendants for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and California state law unfair competition. Key issues will invariably include the similarities between the two designs, but may also call into question the balance of MSM’s intellectual property rights as against defendants’ First Amendment rights to free expression.
The lawsuit is Mil-Spec Monkey, Inc. v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al., Case No. 4:14-cv-02361 (N.D. Cal., May 22, 2014).