May 01, 2016 Decisions in Brief

Decisions in Brief

John C. Gatz

©2016. Published in Landslide, Vol. 8, No. 5, May/June 2016, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.


Claims of Video Game Character Infringement Not Specific Enough

Blizzard Entertainment v. Lilith Games Shanghai Co., 117 U.S.P.Q.2d 1083 (N.D. Cal. 2015). Blizzard and Valve, two video game developers, sued Chinese game developers Lilith and uCool for copyright infringement, alleging that the Chinese developers impermissibly copied their characters and game settings. The plaintiffs argued that dozens of characters in Lilith’s and uCool’s games were essentially copies of characters that do battle in Blizzard and Valve games. Game developer uCool moved to dismiss the action on the grounds that an adequate claim was not stated. The district court granted uCool’s motion to dismiss. The district court discussed the copyright challenges that apply to the protection of characters, and found that the plaintiffs plead no facts demonstrating that any one of the dozens of characters is plausibly copyrightable. The district court also determined that the plaintiffs provided no representative infringement and made only general allegations. Ultimately, the district court was looking for detailed comparisons between the original works and the alleged infringing works (as required in Ninth Circuit findings on copyright coverage for characters), and no such information was presented.

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