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What just happened? Professional wrestler Booker T. Huffman just discovered Activision is one opponent that doesn't submit easily. The WWE Hall of Famer has lost his lawsuit against the publisher after a jury decided Call of Duty character David "Prophet" Wilkes is not based upon G.I. Bro, a character from Huffman's early wrestling career.
It was back in February 2019 when Huffman launched a lawsuit against Activision over claims that the Prophet character from Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was unlicensed use of his own G.I. Bro persona.
The lawsuit centered on a poster Huffman commission for his 2015 comic G.I. Bro and the Dragon of Death. There does appear to be some resemblance between the two, as you can see in the images below.
Micah Dortch of Potts Law firm, who represented Huffman, wrote, "When seen side-by-side there can be no question that this character was copied from G.I. Bro. From the hair, body type and clothing, right down to facial expressions, the similarities are too profound to be an accident."
"Booker T. has devoted a significant amount of time and money creating and organically growing his G.I. Bro character," Dortch continued. "That entrepreneurial investment should not be erased by such a blatant act of copyright infringement by a gaming juggernaut."
Activision's lawyers not only said Huffman presented no evidence that it had access to the G.I. Bro poster in question but also claimed the image was "an unoriginal copy of The Rock from the neck down," making it uncopyrightable. They added that Huffman had suffered no damages from any alleged infringement.
Even without the physical similarities, Huffman tried to argue that Prophet copied his character's "facial expressions" and "attitude," two things Activision said cannot be copyrighted. "Plaintiff does not own the idea of an angry man with a scowling look," argued the company's lawyers.
The jury ultimately sided with Activision. In the section of the verdict form (via Reuters) that asks, "Did any of the Defendants infringe Plaintiff's copyright in the G.I. Bro Poster?" the answer is "No." E. Leon Carter of Carter Arnett, Trial Counsel for Activision Blizzard, said: "We are pleased with the outcome. Bottom line, to call this a frivolous case would be a massive understatement." Ouch.
Huffman isn't the only celebrity to go after game makers for alleged copyright infringement. Lindsay Lohan famously tried to sue Take-Two Interactive in 2014 for the same thing. Philadelphia Eagles football player Lenwood Hamilton sued the Gears of War creators over claims that Cole Train was based on him. And Selena Gomez launched a $10 million lawsuit against a mobile game for using her likeness.