PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds developer PUBG Corp has filed a lawsuit against publisher NetEase, accusing the company of copyright infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair business competition in regard to two of its mobile titles - Rules of Survival and Knives Out.
The claims are made in a 155-page court document, obtained by Torrent Freak, which argues that NetEase deliberately copied Battlegrounds' gameplay and aesthetic.
This, says PUBG Corp, was done in order to mislead consumers, making them believe that Rules of Survival and Knives Out are officially affiliated with Battlegrounds, and to profit from the deception by releasing both games into the marketplace "at or below cost for the purpose of gaining market share" before Battlegrounds was launched on mobile.
In its suit, PUBG Corp highlights numerous "substantially similar elements" found in Rules of Survival and Knives Out that it believes infringe on its Battlegrounds' copyright. The list is extensive, but includes Battlegrounds' pre-game lobby and waiting area, its opening air jump system, the shrinking play space, bombardment zones, its "down but not out" mechanic, and, more generally, its "total look and feel" and "overall gameplay".
The lawsuit also lists, with ample pictorial examples, specific aesthetic elements found in NetEase's titles that, it says, are intentionally designed to further confuse consumers into believing that Rules of Survival and Knives Out are official Battlegrounds products.
These include the use of certain environments, buildings, and landscapes seen in Battlegrounds (the suit specifically highlights the shooting range, rural aqueduct, port, and farm, among other locations) as well as vehicles, clothing, and weapons.
In the latter case, the court document draws considerable attention to the inclusion of a frying pan in NetEase's games, making the claim that, prior to Battlegrounds, "shooter games did not include the use of a frying pan". It also makes a similar argument regarding Battlegrounds' "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" victory phrase which either features directly in NetEase's titles, or is invoked within their marketing material. This phrase, argues PUBG Corp, "has become nearly synonymous with Battlegrounds to gamers".
PUBG Corp states it attempted to address its dispute with NetEase through "other channels besides litigation", and notes that it submitted a complaint to Apple in order to get the publisher's games removed from the App Store.
According to PUBG Corp, however, the "defendants have refused to acknowledge PUBG's intellectual property rights" and "refused to remove or modify the accused games and knowingly persisted in its infringement". As a result, it "determined that legal action would be necessary to enforce its rights".
"PUBG has suffered irreparable harm as a result of Defendants' infringing activities and will continue to suffer irreparable harm in the future unless Defendants are enjoined from their infringing conduct", the lawsuit concludes.
PUBG Corp is requesting the court orders NetEase "to remove each and every version of the games Rules of Survival, Knives Out, and similarly infringing games, from distribution and to cease developing and supporting those games". It is also seeking $150,000 (£106k) per infringed work for statutory damages.