PUBG Corp. Sues Epic Games In S. Korea Over Gameplay Similarities That Probably Aren't Copyrightable

from the idea-vs.-expression dept

The last time we checked in with PUBG Corp., the company behind the popular PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds video game, creator Brendan Greene was remarking on how video games are afforded no intellectual property rights at all, despite that absolutely not being the case. This confused take on a key aspect of his industry came on the heels of the developer of PUBG suggesting that it was considering suing Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, for copyright infringement because Epic had updated its own game with a "battle royale" mode. Like PUBG, this mode pits 100 people against each other in a last-man-standing battle format. It was at that time that we tried to remind PUBG Corp. that the idea/expression dichotomy in copyright law is a thing. While specific expression gets copyright, general concepts, such as generic game-modes and genres, do not. A battle royale game format is no more deserving of copyright than the first-person shooter genre.

It seems that the lesson didn't take, however, as it was recently revealed that PUBG went ahead and filed a lawsuit in South Korea way back in January.

After suggesting it might take action, the developer of PUBG has filed a lawsuit against the creator of Fortnite on the ground of copyright infringement. PUBG Corp., which is based in Korea, filed its lawsuit against US-based Epic Games with the aim of getting the courts to decide if Fortnite represents some kind of copy of PUBG. A PUBG Corp. representative told Korea Times that its lawsuit against Epic was actually filed back in January in the Seoul Central District Court. Epic Games Korea, a division of Epic Games, is the defendant.

How this lawsuit flew under the radar for five months is an incredibly irritating mystery to this writer, but it should be noted that no lawsuit has been likewise filed in the United States. While the press doesn't seem to be able to get any specific claims PUBG is making against Epic out of any filings in the South Korea courts, it's likely that the suit was filed there because the claims will rest largely on Fortnite's mimicry of the battle royale format. Again, in the US, it is clear that this is not copyright infringement.

There are a couple of other items adding to the strangeness of the lawsuit. For starters, PUBG and Epic have an existing business relationship. PUBG was developed in Epic's Unreal Engine, after all. On top of that, Greene's first comments about Fortnite's battle royale mode were downright supportive before he began complaining about so-called "copying."

In March, PUBG creator Brendan Greene--the Playerunknown from the game's title--said Fortnite is good for the battle royale genre overall. "It's great that the battle royale space is expanding and Fortnite is getting battle royale game mode in the hands of a lot more people," he said, as reported by The Verge.

So, what explains the change of heart and the sudden move to file a lawsuit? It seems that Greene and the PUBG people don't like that Fortnite is simply doing better than them in the market.

This time last year, PUBG was seen as the No. 1 battle royale game, but a lot of attention and awareness currently is around Fortnite. Epic's game has exploded in popularity, and is reportedly a money-making juggernaut. A recent report said the free game brought in almost $300 million in revenue during April alone from its various microtransactions.

Suing the competition because they're successful isn't a great look for any company. Add to that the lawsuit sure seems as though it's over content and mimicry that is generally not afforded copyright protection and this all seems much to do about sour grapes.

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  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 31 May 2018 @ 3:58pm

    When you can't innovate, litigate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 4:01pm

    First World Problems

    When you hate that you now have to innovate to keep ahead of competitors so much that you sue them, you have grown too large to survive. Enjoy the ride to the bottom PUBG.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 4:52pm

    Maybe they should focus on, you know, brand awareness instead of meaningless lawsuits in foreign countries. Outside of a couple posts here on Techdirt I never come across any mention of PUBG, yet I'm always seeing videos on YouTube and "Sponsered Post" on Facebook for Fortnite. I have no particular interest in either game, but if I hear someone discussing Fortnite, I at least have an idea what they are talking about..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 5:02pm


    Maybe they are trying to win the corporate equivalent of a Darwin Award?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 8:14am

    Unreal Engine 4

    I noticed that PUBG uses the Unreal Engine 4. Epic Games owns that 3D engine. Suppose Epic could threaten PUBG to drop the case or we'll revoke the license to use our 3D engine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 12:12pm

    Trying the same thing and expecting a different result

    Once upon a time there was a studio called Silicon Knights that developed a game called Too Human. For their game they used Unreal Engine 3. They also decided that it would be a lovely idea to sue the company that they licensed the game engine from.

    Silicon Knights is no longer in business.

    Now admittedly the circumstances are different, but suing the company that developed and maintains the core of what your own product needs to live is not entirely dissimilar from personally sharpening the executor's axe and putting your head on the chopping block.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Seattle Girl, 1 Jun 2018 @ 4:58pm

    Pubg sues Netease over 2 Player Unknown clones ed-infringement-in-rules-of-survival-and-knives-out

    The filings go into more detail about the potential infringement of specific gameplay, phrase, and graphic elements of the three games. It's similar to cases filed against Zynga (and that Zynga filed against others) in the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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