IPE: The Curious Case of Blazheiev v. Ubisoft

Most of you might not know the curious case of Blazheiev v. Ubisoft, which is why precisely why I am dedicating the time and space to discuss what is a truly interesting lawsuit.

A cursory Google search shows that this lawsuit went completely under the radar, not a single news website has covered it that I have found, and once we dive into the meat and potatoes you’ll be just as confused as I was to how this received virtually zero public attention. I have personally been following this lawsuit since it was filed, I haven’t published anything for the simple factor that there have been more relevant cases to this website needing cover over the past year.

Let us dive in, shall we?

1. Let’s Discuss The Basics

Vitalii Blazheiev was a developer for Ubisoft, for which he is the plaintiff in this case and they are the defendant. Blazheiev filed suit on December 17, 2017 in the District Court of San Francisco, California. The complaint was filed against Ubisoft Inc., Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Divertissements, as well as 10 John Doe individuals based on infringement of intellectual property, wrongful conduct, and infringement of right to privacy.

You may recognize Blazheiev’s work as he was in charge of developing and releasing the Blazing Angels 2 PC port, which we are told in the case sold over 100,000 units. In 2008, he began working for Ubisoft’s Ukraine studio as an independent contractor before being moved to lead the production team in Romania and Paris. He was later moved to the Montreal office and worked on Far Cry 3 and other projects.

This is when Ubisoft allegedly starting making some “unfounded accusations” against Blazheiev.

“After promoting Plaintiff, Defendants made unfounded accusations that Plaintiff was “bizarre and strange” and had made “inappropriate” communications with Defendants’ senior management team and various other employees of Defendants, such as Jade Raymond, Defendants’ Managing Director, Yannis Mallat, Defendants’ Chief Executive Officer, and Andre Hilson, formerly Defendants’ Head Recruiter[.]”

Blazheiev was fired in 2010 and claims that the termination was unjust. He contends that Ubisoft published a press release in 2008 including his name without his permission, and that the company used his likeness for their Far Cry games including Far Cry 5 (he does not state how Ubisoft used his likeness). Ubisoft is also accused of using his name for promotional purposes, interfering with a consultation job at Compulsion Games, interfering with prospective jobs at EA, Warner Bros., Square Enix, etc, as well as using his eBook to fraudulently sell their own products.

That’s a mouthful, and Blazheiev wanted no less than $10 million in damages, plus punitive damages, plus injunctive relief, plus attorney’s fees, and more, for the alleged transgressions.

But wait, there’s more, because Blazheiev also accused the defendants of stalking him and making implied or express threats causing him to fear for his own safety and the safety of his family. What threats? There are no details offered.

2. Mental Disorders, Purpose of Harassment, and the Departure of Attorney Wiener

Part of Blazheiev’s contention against Ubisoft stems from accusations that the defendants made comments referring to the plaintiff as “bizarre and strange,” and if you read that thinking he’s accusing Ubisoft of calling him crazy or mentally unstable, you’d probably be right. But Ubisoft isn’t the only one noting Blazheiev’s instability as, in February, so did his attorney.

And then his attorney quit.

Blazheiev employed the services of Attorney Seth W. Wiener from the Law Offices of Seth W. Wiener (go figure) to file the lawsuit against Ubisoft. In February, Wiener filed a notice of motion and motion to withdraw as attorney. His reasons; breach of agreement in payment, unreasonable conduct, and failure to provide evidence to support his claims.

For reference (emphasis mine):

“Second, as detailed in the findings of the Ontario Review Board (Docs. Nos. 24-2 and 24-3), Plaintiff suffers from mental disorders, and his conduct has made it unreasonably difficult for Attorney Wiener to carry out his representation of Plaintiff effectively. In particular, Plaintiff has not provided Attorney Wiener with facts necessary to amend the Complaint in response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and Defendants’ related Notice of Motion for Sanctions under Rule 11.”

Wiener goes on to suggest that Blazheiev is maintaining the lawsuit with no evidentiary support for the purpose of harassing the defendants. Blazheiev makes an allegation in one filing that Ubisoft’s CEO might be a Canadian spy.

The Ontario Review Board mentioned in the passage above is a tribunal that “has jurisdiction over individuals who have been found by a court to be either unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder[.]” ORB concerns the criminal code of Canada and diagnosed Blazheiev with “Psychotic Disorder NOS and Narcissistic Personality Traits” relating to a 2014 case involving criminal harassment of a Ubisoft employee. ORB concluded in the case that Blazheiev posed “a significant threat to the public” and required him to have no contact with Ubisoft employees outside of legal counsel.

In November 2017, ORB ordered Blazheiev be detained at the General Forensic Unit of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto for rehabilitation.

3. The Court Dismisses

Ubisoft and the other defendants filed a motion to dismiss, citing lack of jurisdiction over Ubisoft Toronto and Ubisoft Divertissements as Canadian companies, and a failure to state a claim for all other defendants. In July, the court found that Blazheiev had failed to meet the low requirement for proving jurisdiction, and approved that dismissal.

On the second cause, defendants filed a dismissal on the grounds that the complaint failed to state a claim of relief for all causes. Blazheiev was given the opportunity to file an opposition to the claims defending their merits, and did not. The court notes that the plaintiff made no effort to offer details or guidance to his claims, such as how Ubisoft used his likeness, or how he was being stalked by employees.

In their filing, Ubisoft motioned for sanctions against Blazheiev which the court denied as excessive and unnecessary as Blazheiev was now filing pro se (on his own behalf). The judge also gave Blazheiev the opportunity to file a second amended complaint, and he did.

4. Skipping The SAC

I’m not going to go into detail on the second amended complaint because it is virtually identical to the first. Blazheiev was instructed that he was not allowed to file a second amended complaint including charges of stalking and intentional infliction of emotional distress so he filed the same amended complaints and simply removed those two charges, replacing them with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act charge.

Blazheiev’s SAC was filed on August 17, 2018. Ubisoft filed another motion for dismissal on August 30 with no response, and the court ordered the plaintiff to address the merits in a response, warning that failing to do so would likely result in a dismissal of the entire case with prejudice (Blazheiev would be unable to refile).

His response didn’t address any of the merits, and on October 24, 2018, the court went through with its threat and dismissed the case with prejudice. The additional DMCA copyright charge was based on a press release from 2008, which the court noted was time barred by a three year statute of limitations.

5. Trademarks and Conclusions

Blazheiev’s trademark can be found here, filed November 2017, for goods & services, specifically “Own Apps, business software, cloud technology and entertainment. Premium label, designer, author and owner of fashion technologies and Essence.” Note the date of application (Nov. 2017) versus the date of lawsuit (Dec. 2017).

In Ubisoft’s response to the complaint, they state that Blazheiev was terminated due to poor performance in 2010, after which he spent the following seven years harassing Ubisoft’s employees for which he could not be held criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder, however he was considered a threat to the safety of the public and was ordered to be detained just a month before filing the lawsuit.

As per the court’s judgment, Blazheiev cannot file a new lawsuit on the same events against the same parties. I have uploaded copies of the dockets cited in this article for those who wish to pour through them themselves. They are available at the Google Drive link below.

(Source: Google Drive)

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