PUBG Corp sues Netease for cloning PUBG in Knives Out and Rules of Survival

    
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Let the battle royale lawsuits begin! TorrentFreak caught wind of a new lawsuit in California that ought to set all the cloners on edge: PUBG Corporation is suing NetEase for ripping off PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, specifically alleging copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair business competition. (The Korean PUBG Corp and Chinese NetEase both operate businesses in the US, hence the justification for the venue.)

Given how old this particular genre is, and how PUBG was far from the first to run with it, you might be skeptical about the company’s claims. PUBG Corp believes it has copyrighted the concept of a pre-game lobby where you can test out weapons, among multiple other concepts, including the dynamic air-drop spawning system, the map, the boost bar and consumables, “starting with nothing” and being forced to compete for resources, realistic gear, character paper doll, shrinking gameplay, down-but-not-out incapping, butt-covering frying pan… it goes on like that for a while. Maybe we’ll give them the frying pan. Honestly the screenshots are more convincing than the list. 154 pages of this.

Consequently, PUBG Corp alleges, Netease has infringed on those copyrights in its games Knives Out and Rules of Survival, which also employ many of these mechanics, as the company argues, with clear intent to confuse and deceive users for profit.

“Defendants have committed unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business acts by copying PUBG’s BATTLEGROUNDS game in each version of their ROS and KO games and introducing the ROS and KO games to the marketplace at or below cost. This act was intended to injure PUBG and has injured PUBG by unfairly using PUBG’s own development efforts and consumer goodwill to capture mobile gaming market share before PUBG launched its own mobile version of BATTLEGROUNDS, in violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200. […] On information and belief, Defendants’ unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business acts have been and continue to be willful, intentional, knowing, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to PUBG’s rights.”

PUBG Corp seeks to have Netease’s allegedly infringing games removed from development and $150,000 in damages per game, unless actual damages and profits at trial turn out to be higher.

The court of Massively OP rules that if nothing else, Knives Out is a better name than PUBG.

Source: Complaint, TorrentFreak via Gamasutra. Thanks to everyone who sent this in!
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Archebius

“PUBG animation of a frying pan as both weapon and indestructible butt armor is a copyrightable visual and/or audio-visual work…”

Antiseptic
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Antiseptic

They are hoping to strike gold against a deep pocket should this case have merit.

Since PUBG Corporation is still a Bluehole company, maybe their whole argument about rights (copyright, trade, etc) infringement would hold a lot more weight if Bluehole would also go after a “not as deep pockets” no-name” Chinese mobile developer that has wholesale ripped off assets from Devilian and Tera for this mobile MMO called Dark Faith (look on Youtube for Dark Faith Mobile) and also claimed it was jointly developed with Bluehole.

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flying_dutchman

I think they should have a case here. I do think some of the copyright lawsuits have gotten a bit stupid lately, but if you read through the documents it’s pretty obvious ROS is a direct rip-off.

They made their map look the same, have the same areas, made their buildings look the same as the ones in PUBG, have similar weapons, and a bunch of other stuff. Obviously they didn’t steal any of the art assets, but they did create their own assets that are very similar to the ones PUBG did use. They did it to capture PUBG audience and not for any real design reason. I’

If ROS wins this case and gets off, that sets a pretty dangerous precedent for gaming. That’s allowing anyone with a team of artists and programmers to copy your design choices and slap new lore and art onto anything you make and ship it. That wasn’t such a large problem a decade ago, but with all the boxed solutions available now the turn-around time has gotten much smaller.

Then again if PUBG wins that also stifles some iteration and brings into questions how much is too much. Look at public quests in Warhammer that GW2 stole and refined for their MMO.

It’s a dicey question, but I’d hate to see the smaller dev teams and indy games take a hit because any-time they come up with something fun another team can just take all their ideas and smash them with their own programmers, artists, and marketing money. Obviously that doesn’t apply to PUBG and bluehole, but a court ruling in ROS’s favor would establish precedent.

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Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

snicker some one needs to go back and play army’s army it even has an offline laser tag mode.

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Colin Goodwin

….do the people at Bluehole really think they can copyright the idea of Battle Royal as if they originated the concept, just because they don’t want competition? xD Pathetic

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Randy Savage

A clone suing other clones? That’s rich

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kgptzac

If you look at the screenshot comparison, KO and RoS are pretty much carbon copies of PUBG without directly ripping off art assets, and for this I hope netease get punished for this. I don’t see PUBG actually suing Fortnite, and Fortnight obviously looks and plays quite differently than PUBG, so it’s not like there is no competition to PUBG.

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Schmidt.Capela

KO and RoS are pretty much carbon copies of PUBG without directly ripping off art assets

Which isn’t supposed to be protected by copyright. Thus why games that are nearly carbon copies of more famous games have been created with impunity ever since video-games went commercial. And that is a good thing, because the copies are often the driving force for innovation in the industry, be it because the copy tries to tweak the formula to achieve some staying power, be it because it forces the studio that got its game copied to innovate in new iterations of it due to the competition.

If there is no art asset directly ripped off then I don’t think Bluehole has a case here.

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kgptzac

Uhm, I wouldn’t call them carbon copies if those two games show any driving force for innovation. Such innovation is often realized by making original games that has not already been popularized by someone else. PUBG will be fine because it has real competitors like Fortnite, Escape From Tarkov, and Hunt. The creation of these Netease games are in fact a negative contribution of developer power which can be used to create something better.

Bluehole’s lawsuit probably involves real lawyers so they probably know more of what they are doing than random internet commentators. Either way, my point stands that Netease should be punished for creating ripoffs, so this genre and gaming industry as a whole can better and more unique titles.

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traja

It does look like a clone but I still hope that PUBG loses this one. They are using the word copyright in conjunction with basic game features like walking, running or going prone. The whole industry will suffer if that kind of thing starts to be protected by copyright laws. It is far more damaging than obvious clones are.

Xijit
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Xijit

I can’t imagine that Bluehole green lit any kind of copyright lawsuit after the company founder went to jail for walking out of NCsoft with the source code for Linage 3 in his pocket.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

@ the list of things they believe they own the rights to.

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Leiloni

I wonder if that’s a strategy. Put a ton of things on there and they’re likely to at least get some. In the complaint they specifically ask for a Jury Trial, and a Jury is unlikely to throw out all of that stuff. They’ll likely find some in favor of PUBG which would be a win for PUBG.

And keep in mind, you’re getting a jury of regular folks, not gamers. So you have 12 or so regular Californians, some of which have no interest in gaming, carefully combing over 154 pages of detailed complaints. They don’t have background on other games and anything that you or I are aware of. All the knowledge they have, outside of personal experience which will be varied, is what they’re allowed to see and hear during a trial.

Having been on a jury I can tell you it’s very confusing because you only see bits and pieces and are then asked to make a decision on that. Imagine your Mom looking over this and if her untrained eye sees a few similarities, what is she going to say?

I think this is why PUBG keeps pushing this stuff. Because trials are decided by regular Joe’s, not gaming or legal experts. The only relevant truths are the ones the jury is aware of, for better or for worse.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

I guess we’ll see, though I think regular Joe’s are just as likely to think how ridiculous this sounds when the defense rips that list to shreds by citing all of the games that utilize those concepts and ideas. Realistic gear? Paper-dolls? Starting with nothing? Being forced to compete for resources? The generalization of that is absurd.

If they do win their case, I hope those who own Ultima Online sue them for using paper-dolls in an online game, I hope the RTS industry sues them for having players compete for limited resources, I hope call of duty sues them for using realistic weapons, etc etc. The precedent this would set if they were to win would be their own demise (and horrible for the gaming industry in general).

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McGuffn

Sure, and maybe some of them will get through but all the D has to do is put up screenshots of prior games using much of this. “This game came out from a different company in 2008, but if PUBG clams that they invented this how can that be? Ladies and gentleman do you really believe the timeline has been altered?”

And starting with nothing? Metroid is coming to have a word with you. And Mario. Before he got that hammer in Donkey Kong he was a bit of a wuss.

PUBG can die now. They’ve quickly become worse than Bethesda.

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Robert Mann

That ‘list’ is 98% things that other people did well before them, and if any copyright was granted should be nullified for sheer stupidity in the ruling granting copyright…

On the other hand, there’s a lot of pretty much exact copying of things there, which IS worth discussing. That said, the way this complaint is worded should result in the defendant slapping down screenshots of games from the 90s, motioning to dismiss, and the judge managing to say “Dismissed” as he laughs his head off… since so many of these things are talked about as if they somehow never existed before.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

copyright isn’t relevant anyway patent law is.

none of these things can be copyrighted. they can all be patented. question is did bluehole patent any of them?

that would be real test of any IP litigation here.

which generally game development companies oddly unlike all other tech companies do not really patent all the things they could patent. it’s almost an IP wildwest in terms of patentable tech that goes unpatented in video games.

Xijit
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Xijit

They went down that rabbit hole back in the Atari days & the end ruling was that you can’t copywrite or patent gameplay.

There are a few patent trolls out there that patented basic server functions on game lobbies and matchmaking, but most of them have been slapped down or expired.

Other than that: you can’t straight rip game assets out of someone else’s code or copy their character names (within reason), but everything past that is open season.

This lawsuit is going to end comically for PUBG & I have a feeling that Bluehole is probably arcing a disapproving eyebrow at this.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

pubg is just a game made by bluehole. blue hole is the one filing these lawsuits. paper sub company or no.

Xijit
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Xijit

LoL, it was proven a long time ago that they have no logic, morality, or rationality.

Hell, they even specifically sniped up the developer because they wanted a clone if H1Z1: how the fuck you gonna cry foul when the base line reason you made your game was to clone someone else.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i mean… bluehole has treated PU alot better than SOE/DBZ did for one, and pubg is far closer to his own design than the clusterfuck of design by reddit votes that hizi is so…

i also have the feeling pubg is quite a bit more substantially diffeerent from hizi than these mobile games that are the subject of this lawsuit.

ofc the lawsuit will fail tho because you can’t do jack shit against these mobile clones anyway. there’s probably absolutely no doubt whatsoever they are infringing but like what are they gonna do about it? sue a chinese midnight run operation in california to what expected result?

Xijit
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Xijit

I am not really disagreeing with the sentiment, because H1Z1 is a shit game, but the fact remains that they specifically wanted to cough out a shit clone of what Daybreak was doing and accidentally hit uranium.

As for the game “Design” … He literally ripped the key mechanic of Shoot Mania: Storm & then plugged it into a DayZ PvP mod someone else built.

And as for NetEase: they are one of the biggest International Mobile Game publushers & have got more than enough money to go toe to toe with Bluehole in court.

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Schmidt.Capela

NetEase, in fact, seems to have a market cap of nearly 10x more than Bluehole’s valuation (Bluehole is privately owned).

Do keep in mind, though, that gaming is just a side-venue for NetEase.

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Leiloni

Their game didn’t have anything to do with Daybreak. Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown, had made and been running a mod for ARMA 2 called DayZ: Battle Royale. The studio head wanted to make a Battle Royale game for the Korean market which didn’t really have them yet. The head had played DayZ and enjoyed it, so he hired Greene to help him do it.

Granted Greene did briefly consult on H1Z1 before ending that relationship so he was involved there as well. But if anything all we have here is a smart gamer turned developer who is making bank off of his own idea. But it’s not really copying anything when the dude who was key in both games is the one who came up with the idea to begin with.

Xijit
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Xijit

Brah … You really need to play more games that came out before 2016: every God damn part of that game has been done elsewhere, and typically better.

Plus he even said himself that he got invited to admin on someone else’s DayZ PvP (as in a “no zombie”) mod & then added the shrinking zone from there.

I am happy you like “his” game, but just cause you like it doesn’t mean it suddenly isn’t a cobbled together heap of other people’s ideas and mechanics.

… And I know I have use a frying pan as a weapon before.

P.S. uhhhh, you are aware that Green had fuck all nothing to do with the development of DayZ, Right?

Dean Hall was the one who created that.

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Leiloni

DayZ: Battle Royale was a different mod Greene created after the DayZ mod came out. That’s where a lot of the modern Battle Royale stuff came from. DayZ is different.

Also I don’t play any of these games. I have no interest in shooters or zombies or anything related. I do understand the perspective of Bluehole and Greene’s involvement, though. Just trying to offer a different perspective on this since a lot of people seem to think it’s crazy.

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Jeremy Barnes

I don’t think you understand the perspective of plaintiffs. They are filing nuisance suits on items they already know are not copyrightable or patenable because of perceived competition to their product. In doing so, they’re claiming that the rights to use certain general ideas in a game belong to them when they legally do not.

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Schmidt.Capela

@Leiloni

came up with the idea to begin with.

Actually, directly copied from a Japanese movie from 2000 called, yes, Battle Royale, itself based on a Japanese book from the 90s. He even said in an interview that the shrinking arena was done because he couldn’t get the original way done in the movie to work, where the map is divided in zones which get randomly turned into insta-kill zones one by one as the match progresses.

@Xijit

… And I know I have use a frying pan as a weapon before.

It’s the quintessential improvised weapon in literature, as a particularly solid one can be almost as dangerous as a mace and it’s something women (who were often relegated to the role of damsel in distress, and thus rarely had actual weapons) often had at hand. As such, it’s often included as a joke weapon in games. It’s available in WoW since 2012, for example.