Gaming Platform WinZo files Lawsuit Against Rival MPL

By Max Botwinick, GW Law, 2L

With the growth of the esports industry, competition between gaming platforms has intensified as they all seek to capitalize on th at growth. This, not surprisingly, has led to allegations of copyright infringement.

A case in point is WinZo, one of India’s top gaming platforms. WinZo is suing a rival gaming platform known as the Mobile Premier League (MPL). In the gaming industry, some companies aim to copy a formula they know will work and attract consumers. This is the basis of WinZo’s claim against MPL. According to the complaint, MPL allegedly copied WinZo’s patented game “World War,” using an identical format for users.

WinZo alleges in the complaint that MPL took down the format completely in late March. However, MPL relaunched its game allegedly using the same identical format with the same distinctive features used by WinZo. The only difference, according to the complaint, is that MPL changed the name of the game to “Team Clash.” Despite this name change, users of “Team Clash” suggest that the notifications/pop-ups they receive on their gaming devices for the game still refer to the game by its original name, “World War.”

After WinZo filed a cease-and-desist notice for MPL to take down the format, which it refused to do, WinZo filed the current lawsuit, seeking injunctive relief aimed to restrain MPL from continuing to use the format on the grounds of copyright infringement.

In order for WinZo to prove MPL infringed on its copyright, WinZo relies on Title 17 of the U.S. Code § 106. The first factor WinZo must prove is that they own a valid copyright. According to WinZo, the firm has applied for a patent for the invention, copyright registration in relation to the expression of the Format, and trademark for “World War.” The second factor the court will look towards is whether the defendant actually copied protectable elements of the plaintiff’s work. WinZo alleges that MPL’s game has an identical format to its copyrighted format from “World War.” Furthermore, even after the game changed names, the identical format still remained in use and proved as a violation of WinZo’s copyright. The last factor is that copying may be inferred by substantial similarity between MPL’s game and WinZo’s game. According to the allegations, the identical formatting of the game shows a substantial similarity between the games to establish copyright infringement.

Despite this, §107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code presents factors that MPL could raise to argue there was no copyright infringement in this case. Those fair use factors include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the original copyrighted work, the amount of substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Unfortunately for MPL, most of these factors may not apply to this case. For starters, MPL sold its version of the game for commercial use. Secondly, WinZo’s original game is a fictional expression, a fictional world derived from its own creation. Thirdly, the entire format of WinZo’s game was identically copied and repurposed for MPL’s own version of the game. Finally, the existence of MPL’s version of the same game creates direct competition that hurts the market value of WinZo’s game. Overall, these fair use factors may not provide a sufficient defense for MPL as its fight against WinZo’s copyright infringement allegations.

Since the suit has been filed, MPL has claimed that it will attempt to resolve the matter through negotiations with WinZo. Time will tell.

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