Humvee maker sues Activision over 'Call of Duty'

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The maker of Humvee military vehicles filed a lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard Inc of reaping billions of dollars of revenue by incorporating its trademarks without permission in its flagship “Call of Duty” video game franchise.

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In a complaint filed on Tuesday night in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, AM General LLC accused Activision of taking advantage of its goodwill and reputation in the “Humvee” and “HMMWV” marks by featuring them prominently in “Call of Duty,” and licensing related content for use in toys and books.

“Humvee” and “HMMWV” are short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles. AM General said it has made more than 278,000 Humvees.

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Activision, said on Wednesday that the company does not discuss pending litigation.

Activision has said “Call of Duty” last year was the world’s largest video game console franchise, and North America’s largest for the eighth straight year.

The franchise was launched in 2003, and sales had by 2016 topped 250 million units, with revenue exceeding $15 billion, according to the Santa Monica, California-based company.

But AM General said that success came “only 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 is owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Inc and Renco Group Inc, which are holding companies for the billionaires Ronald Perelman and Ira Rennert, respectively.

The South Bend, Indiana-based company said it wants compensatory, punitive and triple damages from Activision, after more than a year of communication failed to end the dispute.

Humvee-branded vehicles have been used for more than three decades by the U.S. military and in more than 50 countries, AM General said.

In recent months, they have been used in armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

AM General has also produced a civilian vehicle, the Hummer.

The case is AM General LLC v Activision Blizzard Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-08644.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and G Crosse