PUBG Maker Sues Apple and Google for Not Removing Clone Apps

Krafton, developer popular online battle game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG, has sued Apple, Google, and gaming company Garena over PUBG clone apps that copy PUBG gameplay, reports Reuters.

pubg
The lawsuit accuses Garena of creating PUBG clones called "Free Fire" and "Free Fire Max," which originated in Singapore and were later released in the United States. Apple and Google are named in the lawsuit for selling the "blatantly infringing version" of PUBG that was created by Garena.

As set forth in detail below, Free Fire and Free Fire Max extensively copy numerous aspects of Battlegrounds, both individually and in combination, including Battlegrounds' copyrighted unique game opening "air drop" feature, the game structure and play, the combination and selection of wearpons, armor, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of color schemes, materials, and textures.

Apple and Google are accused of distributing hundreds of millions of copies of the Free Fire apps, earning Garena "hundreds of millions of dollars" and netting Apple and Google a "substantial amount of revenue."

Garena's apps had more than 100 million daily users at the end of 2020, and in 2019 and 2020, Garena said that Free Fire was the most downloaded mobile game globally. Krafton estimates that Garena earned more than $2 billion in 2020, with $100 million of that coming from the U.S.

Apple on December 21, 2021 was told that Free Fire infringes on Krafton's PUBG copyrights, but Apple has not taken action to remove the game from the App Store.

The lawsuit goes into great detail on the PUBG gameplay functions that have been copied in the Free Fire apps, but ultimately Krafton is asking for damages and Apple and Google's profits from the sale of the Free Fire apps.

Krafton also had a dispute with NetEase over PUBG clones, but that lawsuit was settled in 2019, and the company also sued Epic Games over Fortnite, but ultimately dropped the lawsuit.

Apps that copy concepts and gameplay features from other apps are nothing new in the ‌App Store‌, and clone apps have long been a problem. Just this week, in fact, Apple's ‌App Store‌ allowed several clones of popular web game "Wordle" onto the App Store, only pulling them after media outcry.

Top Rated Comments

LawJolla Avatar
8 months ago
As an IP attorney, they're on solid ground here if the games are substantially similar in look and feel.

Bethesda won a nice settlement against Warner Brothers for "stealing" Fallout Shelter for their Westworld game.

If Apple/Google are knowingly profiting from an infringing product, they are liable vicariously.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chromite Avatar
8 months ago

As an IP attorney, they're on solid ground here if the games are substantially similar in look and feel.

Bethesda won a nice settlement against Warner Brothers for "stealing" Fallout Shelter for their Westworld game.

If Apple/Google are knowingly profiting from an infringing product, they are liable vicariously.
Wasn’t that because Warner bros literally used the same source code? There was a bug that was replicated
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roar08 Avatar
8 months ago

Wasn’t that because Warner bros literally used the same source code? There was a bug that was replicated
Yes. This was a source code claim, not just a visual clone.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Michael Scrip Avatar
8 months ago

Another reason why we need alternative app stores.
But alternative app stores would have clones too... and we'd still be in this same place.

:)
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
The Reverend Dr Galactus Avatar
8 months ago

As far as I was aware I didn't think you could copyright gameplay mechanics, you can only protect "artwork" and rule wording if you're talking about board games. Zynga has made a living by ripping off other games.
This is correct. I'm surprised the IP attorney in this thread hasn't commented on this aspect, but in the US (and most other jurisdictions), gameplay mechanics are covered under patent law, not copyright. Copyright only protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself, and unless Krafton applied for and received a patent for the battle royale format (possible, but highly unlikely), they have no standing for an infringement claim on the gameplay aspect whatsoever.

The only other area where they could potentially have a claim is under trademark protection. There is a legal concept called trade dress which covers the "look and feel" of a product, and the legal standard generally applied is whether a competing product causes "confusion in the marketplace;" that is, if someone could plausibly mistake your clone for the real thing.

So they might have a case for trademark infringement, there's a small chance they could have a case for patent infringement if they actually secured a software patent on battle royale (then is Epic licensing it for Fortnite?), but unless they can prove the clones use specific media or code from PUBG, copyright doesn't enter into this case.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
4jasontv Avatar
8 months ago

As an IP attorney, they're on solid ground here if the games are substantially similar in look and feel.

Bethesda won a nice settlement against Warner Brothers for "stealing" Fallout Shelter for their Westworld game.

If Apple/Google are knowingly profiting from an infringing product, they are liable vicariously.
JEEZ LawJolla, you need to be more thorough when making unpaid comments on a message board. I expect to see you discuss all points of legal address, even if it's not relevant to the conversation. You can add non-significant references to appendix B. For example, what does maritime law say about this specific situation? For each statement explain why it is or isn't relevant. Only citations made using the 19th edition of Bluebook will be accepted.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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