Activision Files Complaint Over ModernWarfare3.com
By Matt Peckham
It’s a Modern Warfare 3 joke site littered with pro-Battlefield 3 propaganda, trolling fans of the former first-person shooter or anyone sensitive enough to take the bait, and now Activision wants it shut down—so much so that it’s filed a domain name dispute with the National Arbitration Forum. The NAF describes itself as a litigation alternative, and specializes in domain name dispute resolution.
The complaint was filed after the owner of the site—registered in March 2009—began automatically redirecting visitors to EA’s Battlefield 3 website (the site has since returned to simply mocking Modern Warfare 3).
“Warning: this website is under siege,” declares the site in klaxon-red lettering at the top of the page, while auto-loading a Life of Brian clip (the Michael Palin “Biggest Dickus” sequence, except with “Modern Warfare” and “Modern Warfare 3” overdubbed for the joke name). If you’re reasonably thick-skinned, it’s rather clever and mildly amusing.
“Modern Warfare is back,” the site continues. “On November 8, 2011, the most over-hyped first-person action series of all-time returns with the copy and paste sequel to the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
The page currently has nearly 17,000 Facebook “Likes.”
According to the complaint, Activision paid $2,600 to have the dispute reviewed by three NAF panelists, and describes its “premier” franchise (Modern Warfare) as having “generated gross receipts in excess of $1 billion retail,” admitting spending “in excess of $24 million” on advertising to date. The complaint’s remainder claims the site is essentially rigged to promote Battlefield 3 and “misleadingly divert consumers or tarnish [Activision’s] trademark or service mark.”
“In summary,” writes Activision, “the Respondent is not known by a name consisting in whole or in part of the wording Modern Warfare 3 or its substantial equivalent; the domain Name contains and displays Complainant’s Mark in its entirety; and the websites to which the Domain Name has been directed are hostile to Complainant’s games and openly supportive of a primary competitor’s products, all to the detriment and disruption of Complainant’s business.”
Are Activision’s claims legitimate? I’m not an expert in domain name dispute resolution, so I won’t waste your time guessing, though I know enough about prior instances to realize these things can swing either way. The threshold for Activision is fairly high, but the company does seem to be making a reasonable case under the ICANN’s “Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy.” For instance, it can show that “the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights.”
The tougher points include proving that “the registrant does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name” (the registrant claims that ModernWarfare3.com is a “fan site”) and that “the registrant registered the domain name and is using it in bad faith’.” (Activision’s notes about URL redirection and beta registration may carry weight here.)