Lawyer didn't play enough Call of Duty before suing Call of Duty publisher, court decrees

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard (not Rockstar))

A court has dismissed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard and Rockstar Games over alleged trademark infringement in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and argued that the plaintiff's lawyer clearly didn't play enough Call of Duty.

That's according to a report from legal firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which tipped off the gaming world to the litigation through Kotaku. In November 2021, a company called Brooks Entertainment filed suit against Activision Blizzard and Rockstar Games, alleging that the two companies ripped off the likeness of Brooks Entertainment CEO Shon Brooks for the character of Sean Brooks in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

The lawsuit alleges that Brooks Entertainment "was talking to and provided a pitch to Blizzard, Activision and Rockstar Games, Inc. to create a game," and exchanged "many meetings and emails" with people like Rockstar president Sam Houser, as well as Activision Blizzard Mobile chief creative officer Gordon Hall (who passed away last year) and former Rockstar HR manager Sarah Shafer.

Brooks (the text of the lawsuit is unclear about whether it's referring to Shon Brooks, the individual, or Brooks Entertainment, the company) allegedly presented Activision Blizzard and Rockstar with pitches for two games.

One of those pitched games, titled Save One Bank, features a fictionalized version of Shon Brooks who "has missiles at disposal," "has unlimited resources," "navigates through both exotic and action-packed locations," and has "scripted game battle scenes take place in a high fashion couture shopping center mall," all of which are elements the lawsuit claims Activision and Rockstar ripped off for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and its "main character," Sean Brooks.

In reality, Rockstar has no connection to the Call of Duty series, which is published by Activision Blizzard alone. Sean Brooks is not the main character of the game. And while there is a battle in a mall, it does not resemble the description in the lawsuit.

In a motion filed in March 2022, Activision's counsel argued that it's "immediately apparent that Plaintiff’s counsel could not have played Infinite Warfare (or any Call of Duty game, for that matter) and filed the Complaint in good faith." Activision argued that the suit was frivolous to the point of calling for sanctions - monetary penalties against the lawyer filing the suit - under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that "factual contentions have evidentiary support."

Brooks argued against those sanctions, saying that "Rule 11 does not impose a specific requirement that would have required plaintiff’s counsel here to personally play the entire six-hour campaign of the Call of Duty game in order to conduct a reasonable pre-filing investigation."

The judge in the case, however, disagreed, saying that Brooks' lawyer "could have easily verified these facts prior to filing the factually baseless Complaint, just as the Court easily verified them within the first hour and a half of playing the game." They were ordered to reimburse Activision Blizzard's attorneys' fees and court costs.

The courts have been less favorable to the publisher in Activision Blizzard's sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.