There has always been a debate whether video games are free to depict other artists or companies' products in their own video games, with the most recent being Take-Two won a lawsuit against Solid Oak Sketches tattoo studio for showcasing their work on players like LeBron James in their NBA 2K games. Today, the US court dismissed a trademark infringement lawsuit between Call of Duty's publisher Activision and military vehicle manufacturer Humvee on featuring their product line in various Call of Duty titles.
The case was originally brought up back in 2017, claiming Activision's use of the Humvee vehicles from AM General as trademark infringement and deceiving their audience to believe they are part of the Call of Duty lore. However, years later, the studio clarified its situation and used statements from the first amendment to aid its side of the story to explain the usage of such vehicles is purely for artistic and realism purposes. The ruling came in their favor, and Judge Daniels explained there were several instances where AM General's vehicles were present at promotional Call of Duty events with both the manufacturer and Activision's logo, clarifying the difference for the audience.
If realism is an artistic goal, then the presence in modern warfare games of vehicles employed by actual militaries undoubtedly furthers that goal.
Assuming arguendo that realism is the only artistic interest that Call of Duty games possess — an assumption potentially belied by the presence of narrative campaign modes in all of the challenged games — it is also true that realism can have artistic merit in itself.
What do you think of the situation between Activision and AM General? Do you think video game developers should have more freedom when using real-life products to add realistic or artistic value to their titles? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.