In February 2019, pro wrestler Booker T. Huffman sued Activision, claiming that the Call of Duty character David "Prophet" Wilkes is based upon a character he appeared as in the early days of his wrestling career named GI Bro. The similarities are certainly there—both are large, muscular men with dreadlocks, bandanas, and grim scowls—but a jury has decided that they are not enough to constitute an infringement.
Huffman's lawyer, Micah Dortch of Potts Law firm, said in a 2019 blog post that "there can be no question that this character was copied from GI Bro" when the two are seen side-by-side. "From the hair, body type and clothing, right down to facial expressions, the similarities are too profound to be an accident."
Activision argued that Huffman had presented no evidence that Activision had access to the GI Bro poster in question, however, or that he had suffered any damages as a result of the alleged infringement. It also claimed that "unrebutted testimony and evidence" provided by Huffman and the creators of GI Bro showed that the image in question is not actually an original work itself, but is "an unoriginal copy of The Rock from the neck down."
"At most the 'facial expression' or 'attitude' is claimed to be unique," Activision said in a motion. "But a facial expression is not copyrightable. Nor is an 'attitude'."
The jury in the case agreed with Activision. The verdict form, available via Reuters, wraps things up with a simple answer of "no" to its very first, central question: Did any of the Defendants infringe Plaintiff's copyright in the GI Bro Poster?
"We are pleased with the outcome. Bottom line, to call this a frivolous case would be a massive understatement," Activision trial counsel E. Leon Carter of Carter Arnett, one of three legal firms representing Activision in the matter, said in a statement.
"Activision creates games with the utmost integrity and is extremely proud of everyone involved with the development and creative process for all of our games including Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, including the incredible talent like William Romeo who helped bring our vision to life. Today, the jury validated that process."
And now, because it's Friday, here's a clip of GI Bro and Diamond Dallas Page putting Mike Awesome through a table in May 2000 Ambulance Match.