The lights are on
Treyarch’s Black Ops II marks the series’ first move into the future, but it also raises questions about the ongoing relationship between Activision and Infinity Ward. Over two years ago, details regarding the lawsuit began to appear publicly. One such detail stated that Call of Duty titles set after Vietnam would be exclusive to Infinity Ward. We recently obtained some court documents (which you can see below), and it appears that this clause was indeed included in Infinity Ward’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
As you can see in the MOU excerpt above, Infinity Ward had the rights to all Call of Duty games set in “modern day (post-Vietnam), the near future, or distant future.” With Black Ops II’s 2025 setting, it’s clear that Treyarch went with the near future setting anyway.
With the historically stressful relationship between Infinity Ward and Treyarch, the documents suggest that the latter may have been frustrated with their restrictions.. Several documents allude to Treyarch’s repeated attempts to feature elements that would make the original Black Ops “feel more modern” or otherwise bank off of the popularity of the Modern Warfare name. One complaint revolves around the use of guns in Black Ops that weren’t designed or made available until the 1980s or 1990s. Another centers on an email from an Activision rep that initially proposed “Modern Warfare Origins” as a title for Black Ops, branding it as a prequel to Infinity Ward’s series.
Infinity Ward’s MOU states that the developer had the rights to anything featuring Modern Warfare branding. Despite this, former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella claim that Activision never provided them with the gold master of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex (the Treyarch-developed Wii port of Call of Duty 4) before the game went into production. Another claim states that Activision attempted to keep Infinity Ward in the dark regarding the development of the free-to-play Call of Duty Online title (which never materialized).
Considering that the trial is yet to happen, it's unclear if Activision could land itself in legal trouble thanks to Black Ops II's futuristic setting. I spoke with Eric Chad, an intellectual property attorney with the firm Merchant & Gould. Regarding Activision's punishment if Zampella and West win the lawsuit, Chad said "[Pulling Black Ops II from the shelves] is likely a possible remedy. This does occasionally happen, but I think it is much more likely that the remedy would be some sort of damages payment, like a forced royalty." He continued, "It seems like Black Ops II is likely substantially complete. That might make it hard for the court to order them to change it. Much more likely would be either of the remedies you discussed above [Pulling the game or facing a damage payment]. Damages, in my opinion, are the most likely."
Many of the court documents make mention of the “post-Vietnam” clause, but the current status of the agreement is unknown. I asked Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia about the matter last month, and he declined to comment. Other attempts to reach out to Activision reps have been met with similar silence (which is understandable considering they’re in relation to ongoing litigation). One likely scenario is that Activision believes the agreement was voided when West and Zampella were fired, allowing Treyarch to legally break the Vietnam barrier. Despite this, we may not know for sure until more details of the ongoing trial are made public.
UPDATE (5/9/2012): Activision responded to this story with the following: “There is no basis for the plaintiffs in the Infinity Ward suit to block the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”
To see the full Memorandum of Understanding, view the gallery below.
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They make to much of a fuss over these. Just make the game!
I am curious about something:
What if Activision decided to lawyer up and just be a-holes and continue to appeal -if they did lose the case. I am assuming that they already have a bunch of mean-ass lawyers with tenure in their payroll, so is that a possibility? Can they continue to appeal until it becomes an economical dilemma for Infinity Ward - continue and pay more money to their lawyers, or just give up?
I recall seeing a case like this not long ago, and it interests me a lot to know.
So that's why they fired west and zampella, to free up their little precious treyarch to make whatever they wanted.
Crap this is bad Hope ACTIVISION gets going...
Are zombies gonna be okay all I care about
*a few minutes of uncontrolled laughter*
Someone either wasn't paying attention or did not care.
I guess they don't care about making a profit on that game since damages will likely take most of that, if that is the game ever sees the light of day, guess we will see.
Are they actually getting even dumber over there, legal wise, I didn't think that was even possible?
I can agree w/ Treyarch's frustrations concerning that clause. I'd be offended if I was so limited in what I could do.
But I guess Activision doesn't give a damn about that clause. Cuz they know they'd make enough bank to afford a damage payment to Zampella/West and come out with billions upon billions.
Does anybody realize that activision owns both infinity ward and treyarch ? How can you sue yourself ?
I'm sure at this point nobody cares
Specially when the founders got kicked out and that other guy that left after mw3, hmmm makes me wonder if he left for this specific reason to avoid this stupid sh!t that's been going since mw2 came out and to make his own company or whatever he's doing.
Either way i hope cod crash and burns, I'm tired of developers trying to imitate cod and we get more sh!tty shooters like cod and less creative games or in other words "non-military shooter games"
I'm tired of Activision, EA and Capcom ruining the gaming industry.
Haha wow, just wow...
Jeez, you'd think these two awful developers could let bygones be bygones and agree to try to make awful games TOGETHER. After all, if one of them stops making Call of Duty games, how will Activision release a new one EVERY SINGLE YEAR?
I really hope the game gets pulled from shelves world wide and cannot be sold period. That is the only way Activision is going to learn anything.
The series is dead, who cares.