Krafton, the company behind PUBG: Battlegrounds and PUBG: Mobile, has filed a complaint against developer Garena, alongside Apple and Google, seeking damages for what it calls “widespread and willful copyright infringement” by a number of games available on app stores iOS and Android which he considers PUBG clones.
Specifically, Krafton (thanks Tech Crunch) is targeting the continued availability of Garena’s Free Fire games – which it calls “unlicensed thinly veiled versions of Battlegrounds” – the original Free Fire having already been the subject of a legal challenge by developer PUBG.
Free Fire: Battlegrounds, as Garena’s game was rather shamelessly known at the time of the initial trial, launched for mobile devices shortly after PUBG’s release in 2017 (PUBG Mobile arrived the following year) and the initial trial de Krafton, who accused Garena of copying key elements of his game, led to an agreement between the two companies in Singapore.
But above all, no licensing agreement was concluded between the two parties, nor was Garena authorized to “sell or distribute games infringing [Krafton’s] copyright” in the United States. As such, Krafton is now filing a lawsuit against Garena in US courts, targeting the original Free Fire, still available on the iOS and Google app stores, and the recent Free Fire MAX .
Krafton’s lawsuit argues that because this second game offers the same user experience as its predecessor, it once again infringes its PUBG copyright by “extensively copying many elements” from PUBG Battlegrounds – including its gameplay mechanic. ‘air drop’ opening, its gameplay structure and game play, plus “the combination and selection of unique weapons, armor and items, locations and the overall choice of color schemes, materials and textures”.
Krafton claims that Garena’s copyright-infringing titles have grossed “hundreds of millions of dollars” worldwide since they were launched at PUBG’s expense, and is suing Apple and Google in its lawsuit for alleging refused to remove the game from their app stores, despite legal demands to do so in December. He adds that the tech giants benefit directly from the sales of Free Fire given their reduction in all revenue made through their respective app stores.
That’s not quite the end of Krafton’s legal targets, however; Furthermore, he is suing Google for refusing to remove YouTube videos featuring Free Fire – claiming that these also infringe his PUBG copyrights. It also states that YouTube hosts a Chinese feature film, titled BiuBiuBiu, which is “nothing more than a live-action dramatization of Battlegrounds in blatant violation.”
Krafton seeks damages from all three parties for direct, contributory, and indirect copyright infringement (as well as YouTube for contributory and indirect copyright infringement) and asserts that it is entitled to the profits made by Apple and Google regarding Free Fire “for amounts to be proven at trial”.
Clone titles have, of course, continued to be a problem on mobile devices, with Krafton (or PUBG Corp as it was then known) also taking legal action against NetEase in 2018, accusing two of its titles – Rules of Survival and Knives Out – to deliberately copy gameplay and aesthetics from PUBG in an effort to “profit from deception”.
This week also saw more kerfuffles over unscrupulous clones as copies of popular daily puzzle game Wordle began flooding mobile app stores, crammed with ads and in-app purchases along the way. In this case, however, following very public criticism from everyone involved, Apple and Google began moving quickly to remove the clones from their stores.