On January 20, 2022, Riot Games sued Suga and Imba, two video game companies based in Asia, in the Central District of California, alleging that the defendants infringed on Riot’s intellectual property by creating a knockoff of Riot’s popular multiplayer game, League of Legends. The lawsuit claimed that the defendants intentionally mimicked League of Legends’s distinctive visual style, characters, and artwork, as well as other visual, audiovisual, and textual elements in I Am Hero: AFK Tactical Teamfight. On September 14, 2023, a California federal judge held that the defendants must face the intellectual property suit in California and denied their motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens.
What Is the Case About?
League of Legends is a popular team-based multiplayer online game published by Riot Games, as well as certain other related games. In 2022, League of Legends had over 180 million players, with more than 117 million active monthly players. League of Legends uses five player teams of “champion” characters that battle across computer generated battlefields in a real time strategy game with elements of fantasy roleplaying and character development. The game and its characters are so popular that they have spawned spinoffs in other media, including a popular Netflix animated television series. According to Riot Games’s original complaint, the defendants knowingly created infringing games that copied paragraphs of text from League of Legends verbatim and were populated with nearly identical versions of League of Legends characters, including substantially similar visual depictions, roles and skills, artwork, and backstories.
Riot identified several specific character names, design, and artwork that they alleged were very similar to the ones that exist in League of Legends. In addition, Riot claimed that many customers of the defendants could easily recognize that the characters were copies of the ones that already existed in League of Legends. Riot is seeking statutory damages of $150,000 for each copyright infringed as well as injunctive relief to prevent further unauthorized use of their intellectual property. The decision made by U.S District Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss means that the case will proceed in the United States.
Why Is This Case Important?
While Riot had previously filed lawsuits against other foreign game developers for similar copyright infringement issues, they had been dismissed for forum non conveniens.1 By allowing the case to move forward, the court has indicated that other countries may not be an adequate alternative forum for copyright infringement that has occurred in the United States.
Allowing the case to proceed emphasizes how important properly protecting intellectual property is in the gaming industry. A ruling in favor of Riot could have far-reaching implications for game developers who face similar challenges in attempting to protect their intellectual property from infringement and other forms of unauthorized use by third parties both domestically and internationally.
 Riot Games, Inc. v. Shanghai Moonton Tech. Co., No. CV223107MWFJPRX, 2022 WL 17326150, at *7 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 8, 2022)