WWE wrestler Booker T. Huffman (known in the ring as “Booker T”) has lost his suit against video-game publisher Activision claiming unlicensed use of his character “G.I. Bro” in the company’s Call of Duty Black Ops 4 title. Huffman alleged there were design similarities in the way G.I. Bro and the Call of Duty character Prophet was portrayed.
Both characters have the dreadlocks hairstyle, wear a headband or hat and are holding a gun in their promotional material. However, Booker T’s G.I. Bro is “a retired special operations soldier, fighting an old enemy he thought he had finished off years before, with the support of his old military friends,” Huffman said in the filing. Activision’s multiplayer character Prophet is a “cybernetically enhanced soldier” who in the game replaces 70% of his body with technology, according to the Call of Duty game notes.
“We are pleased with the outcome. Bottom line, to call this a frivolous case would be a massive understatement,” said E. Leon Carter of Carter Arnett, Trail Counsel for Activision Blizzard, in a statement. “Activision creates games with the utmost integrity and is extremely proud of everyone involved with the development and creative process for all of our games including Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, including the incredible talent like William Romeo who helped bring our vision to life. Today, the jury validated that process.”
During the litigation, Activision argued that Huffman had contracted away to WWE all rights to the promotional material as well as rights to images and other depictions of G.I. Bro. In response, Huffman insisted that he only contracted away intellectual property rights when they are used in connection with the business of pro wrestling. Along those lines, he asserted that the comic book character G.I. Bro does not fall within that limitation.
Activision also maintained that Huffman had exaggerated similarities between G.I. Bro in the poster and an image of Prophet owned by Activision. As the video game publisher saw it, both merely involved black military men with dreadlocks standing in a “generic military pose” while holding weapons. Huffman disputed that characterization, stressing the similarities were far closer than the generic depiction offered by Activision.
As the jury verdict shows, jurors found Activision’s arguments more persuasive.