IPE Update: When Riot Sued Over A League of Legends Ripoff

Way back in the distant year of 2017 I reported on the case of Riot Games v. Shanghai Moonton Technology Co., and due to a case of poor diligence on my part, I never actually followed up on that case. The gist of the lawsuit is simple; Riot filed lawsuit in California court alleging copyright infringement by a mobile League of Legends ripoff Mobile Legends. What actually brought the lawsuit to my scope of coverage wasn’t so much that the lawsuit existed but the fact that Shanghai Moonton Tech Co. doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the free press and decided to threaten lawsuits against anyone even covering the case. To that I welcome their lawyers with open arms and an ethics complaint with the state bar association.

Well the lawsuit didn’t go far. As you might expect, Moonton answered Riot’s lawsuit with a motion for dismissal as well as a motion for forum non conveniens. For those who don’t want to hit the Google machine, this is a power that the courts in the States have to exercise their authority to simply not take a case if another court is more convenient. In this case, the court determined that Moonton is a very, very Chinese company that does its principle business in China which begs the question of what this case is doing in California.

“Moonton is a video game company based in China with approximately 215 employees (including the employees of its subsidiaries) located in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hefei. It conducts all of its engineering operations in China. All of Moonton’s employees communicate with one another in Mandarin, and documents and emails are drafted in Mandarin.”

As the court points out, having the case in the states would just be a gigantic pain when it could so much more easily be held in China. Moonton successfully convinced the court that while a trial in California would require witness testimony and mean that Moonton would need to bring employees from China to California at great expense, that courts in China do not operate the same way and that Riot would be unlikely to have to transport any employees as witnesses.

“For the reasons set forth below, the FNC Motion is GRANTED. The courts of China provide an adequate alternative forum for this litigation. Though Riot’s choice to sue here would ordinarily be entitled to substantial deference, the unique circumstances of this case and relevant private interest factors – most notably the risk of inconsistent judgments and overlapping damages awards, and Moonton’s inability to depose Tencent and likely difficulty obtaining documents from Tencent if the case proceeds here – outweigh that deference and militate in favor of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds.”

The court also took issue with an apparent coordination between Riot Games and its parent company Tencent, with Riot suing Moonton in the US while Tencent sues them in China as being unfair as Riot/Tencent would have access to each others documents while Moonton would likely have more issues.

“Simply put, if Riot is going to sue Moonton here for Bang Bang’s infringement of LoL’s allegedly original game map while Tencent, its Chinese parent company with which it coordinates enforcement efforts, simultaneously sues Moonton in China for Bang Bang’s infringement of King’s Glory’s allegedly original game map, it would be unfair in the extreme if Moonton could not depose any Tencent representatives or compel them to testify at trial. But that is precisely what will happen if the case proceeds here.”

Riot naturally is not happy with this decision, and responded by noting that the odds of U.S. Copyright being adequately provided protection in a Chinese court is slim. Unfortunately the court did not see it their way and granted the motion for forum non conveniens. In January 2018, Riot Games filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was assigned a docket number, both parties named their council, and…nothing happened.

After seven months of silence, Riot quietly dropped the appeal.

Unfortunately for Moonton and their League of Legends ripoff, the Shanghai Courts were not so lenient on the company. The lawsuit by Tencent continued and in July of last year the court handed over a $2.9 million verdict in Tencent’s favor. Incidentally the lawsuit targeted not Moonton as a company, but its CEO Xu Zhenhua.

Moral of the story: Don’t steal from Tencent, they will destroy you. As always, the files sourced in the above article have been uploaded to the MMO Fallout Google Drive for your reading pleasure.

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