Call of Duty Lawsuit Separates "Call of Duty" and "Modern Warfare", Explains Scope of Royalties

By Brian Leahy, Mar 04, 2010 12:58pm PST Documents detailing the lawsuit against Activision brought by Jason West and Vince Zampella--the co-founders and former heads of Call of Duty series creator Infinity Ward--have surfaced via Kotaku, offering a clearer view of what's going on.
Review of the 16-page lawsuit paints an interesting picture, from the perspective of plaintiffs West and Zampella, about Infinity Ward's history, relationship with Activision, and the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare franchises.

Perhaps most interesting is that West and Zampella refer to "Call of Duty" and "Modern Warfare 2" as two distinct franchises throughout the lawsuit. Furthermore, in an agreement made between the plaintiffs and Activision on March 31, 2008, creative authority and approval for any "Modern Warfare" titles set in the post-Vietnam era, near future, or distant future was given to West and Zampella.

This also lends credence to the rumor that Treyarch, another wholly-owned Activision studio responsible for releasing non-Modern Warfare Call of Duty titles beginning with Call of Duty 3, is working on a new Call of Duty title set in Vietnam.

West and Zampella are not only suing for compensation and royalties, but control of the "Modern Warfare" brand. They claim the royalties they seek were agreed to in that March 2008 agreement, and cover money owed based upon the record sales of Modern Warfare 2 as well as future royalties for any titles published by Activision under the "Call of Duty" name or titles that utilize a significant portion of Infinity Ward's proprietary technology.

That latter portion--games that use a significant portion of IW's technology--likely refers to Treyarch's, as it made both 007: Quantum of Solace and Call of Duty: World at War using Infinity Ward's technology, though the studio is never named in the lawsuit.

Additionally, this March 31, 2008 agreement gave Infinity Ward to option to choose to develop a new intellectual property following the release of Modern Warfare 2.

The plaintiffs also claim that they still have "creative authority" over any Modern Warfare-branded game and "the conduct of Infinity Ward," though Activision just replaced them a day after they were fired as it announced plans to create a dedicated "Call of Duty" branch and revealed at least two new titles in the franchise that will be developed and released by Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games.

3D Realms co-owner and Duke Nukem Forever developer George Broussard tweeted the following: "My take? Activision: 'Cheaper to fire the guys, deal with a suit / pay them off than have them control the MW brand/studio'"

Activision has already released a statement about West and Zampella's lawsuit, calling it "meritless". While we only officially know West and Zampella's side of the story, Activision's hand may have been revealed. G4tv.com's Patrick Klepek, originally responsible for breaking the story, is reporting that Activision is seeking several internal Infinity Ward "documents regarding West and Zampella's communications with Activision's competitors, including but not limited to Electronic Arts."

Word of Activision's rivals are coming into play only furthers the rampant speculation and rumors that the duo had opted to develop that new IP after the release of Modern Warfare 2 and were shopping it around, though that's still unconfirmed.

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