PUBG Corp, the developers behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, has filed a lawsuit against the China-based video game publisher NetEase. They are accused of copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair business competition, all regarding two of NetEase’s mobile titles: Rules of Survival and Knives Out.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds debuted on PC last year, and became an instant hit. It sold over a million copies of the first public beta in its first month, and that number has increased to 28 million copies on the PC alone. However, with that degree of success, it’s inevitable that there will be imitators and innovators, and PUBG Corp has filed an official complaint to the federal court in California.
The complaint claims that NetEase’s two offending games (Rules of Survival, released on November 15th, 2017, and Knives Out, released on November 18th, 2017) were published before the official mobile version of PUBG (released March 19th, 2018 by Tencent Games) in order to mislead customers into thinking RoS and KO were affiliated with PUBG, and profit from this confusion by releasing these games.
In a 155-page court document (pdf) obtained by Torrent Freak, PUBG Corp lists a myriad of different “substantially similar elements” in RoS and KO that supposedly infringes on the copyright to PUBG. The list is extensive, and the offending elements include, but are not limited to:
- Various gameplay mechanics, including the pre-game lobby, the opening skydive system, the shrinking play area.
- Aesthetic elements, such as clothing, buildings and landscape, and weapons.
- More specific examples, including the usage of the victory phrase “Winner winner chicken dinner,” either directly in NetEase’s titles or invoked in their marketing materials, and the use of a frying pan as a weapon (the document claims that, prior to PUBG “…shooter games did not include the use of a frying pan.”
This lawsuit is not PUBG Corp’s first attempt at dealing with NetEast. In January, PUBG Corp requested that Apple remove the offending games from the iOS store, but the “defendants have refused to acknowledge PUBG’s intellectual property rights” and “refused to remove or modify the accused games and knowingly persisted in its infringement”. Because of this, PUBG Corp “determined that legal action would be necessary to enforce its rights”. The document concludes:
PUBG has suffered irreparable harm as a result of Defendants’ infringing activities and will continue to suffer irreparable harm in the future unless Defendants’ are enjoined from their infringing contract.”
PUBG Corp is seeking to have the court “…remove each and every version of the games Rules of Survival, Knives Out, and similarly infringing games, from distribution and to cease developing and supporting these games.” It also seeks statutory damages equaling $150,000 per infringed work. It’s clearly apparent that Rules of Survival and Knives Out are inspired by PUBG, but it will be up to the court to determine if the copyright infringement and unfair competition claims hold water.