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PUBG studio takes legal aim at battle royale-style 'clones' on Play Store

Two NetEase games accused of having key similarities to PUBG Mobile that violate copyright.

Published onApril 9, 2018

  • PUBG Corp has filed a lawsuit against NetEase Inc.
  • The lawsuit claims that games Rules of Survival and Knives Out violate copyright.
  • PUBG Corp has accused NetEase of planning to gain market share before the release of PUBG Mobile.

PUBG Corp, the studio behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), has filed a lawsuit against game developer NetEase. The lawsuit claims that the games Rules of Survival and Knives Out, made by NetEase, have violated copyright. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit says that “Rules of Survival and Knives Out games mimic the total image and overall audiovisual appearance of PUBG’s Battlegrounds game as well as distinctive elements and combinations of elements with PUBG’s Battlegrounds.”

It backs this up by pointing to a number of aspects of PUBG that PUBG Corp claim are copyrightable and that are also found in the NetEase games. These include the pre-play area and locations used in the games, the use of air jumps and shrinking battlefields, and the way that the games congratulate winners with the “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” catchphrase.

Quite remarkably, the lawsuit even claims that NetEase advertised Rules of Survival using vehicles and locations that don’t appear in the game but do appear in PUBG. This includes a two-seater buggy and a power plant with a single cooling tower.

As for motivation, the lawsuit says that in copying Rules of Survival and Knives Out, NetEase created confusion over who made the games and were able to gain market share before PUBG Corp released its own mobile game.

It points to reviews and videos with titles such as “PUBG on Mobile – Rules of Survival” as evidence that the NetEase was successful in creating this confusion.

The lawsuit says that PUBG Corp submitted a complaint to Apple on Jan 24 alleging that Rules of Survival and Knives Out, which were available on the App Store, infringed on PUBG’s copyright. It says that Apple then sent a notice of the complaint to representatives of NetEase games on Jan 31.

However, on the same day, NetEase responded, denying that the either Rules of Survival or Knives Out infringe on PUBG Corp’s rights.  It was only after this that PUBG Corp decided to take legal action.

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In the lawsuit, the PUBG Corp is asking for damages and that NetEase removes all versions of Rules of Survival and Knives Out from distribution.

Of course, the timing of the lawsuit is interesting. While PUBG was originally released last year on PC and Xbox, it has only been in the last month that the mobile version of the game gained a wide release. It makes sense, therefore, that PUBG Corp would now start to take an interest in some of the games that it thinks are violating its copyright.

Having said that, the existence of similar games hasn’t stopped PUBG Mobile from being hugely popular since its release on Android. It currently has more than 10 million downloads on Google Play.