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PUBG takes aim at mobile competition, launching lawsuits against copycats

Before Bluehole managed to break onto smartphones with PUBG Mobile, a plethora of inspired games flooded the market in an attempt to ride the wave of popularity surrounding the battle royale genre. NetEase’s Rules of Survival and Knives Out in particular have since been highlighted by the publisher as threats to the PUBG brand, prompting a lawsuit accusing the company of copyright infringement.

Although PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularised the battle royale format, many titles house elements from the preparation phase to the skydiving entry into the world and the ever decreasing circle of death that prompts players to move and engage with one another. NetEase, however, has gone one step too far according to Bluehole, by supposedly copying the likeness to the point of confusion.

The 155-page complaint was filed to a federal court in California, accusing NetEase of copyright infringement, unfair competition and trade dress infringement as all choices were supposedly made to “evoking the same gameplay experience depicted in BATTLEGROUNDS.” This includes “PUBG’s expressive depictions of the pre-play area,” the iconic ‘Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner’ victory prompt and another 23 elements that both Rules of Survival and Knives Out are supposedly infringing upon.

Brave Fighters, a friendly reminder: to be considered for the prize you will need to submit a picture created from this…

Posted by Knives Out on Monday, 25 December 2017

The difficulty behind this, is that many of the total 25 elements highlighted within the suit are also present within PUBG’s direct rival, Fortnite: Battle Royale. That being said, even when Fortnite: Battle Royale does appear when players search for PUBG on the respective App storefronts, it won’t confuse people into thinking that it is officially made by Bluehole, PUBG Corp or Tencent, the three companies heading up official Battlegrounds titles.

Bluehole attempted to settle this out of court by contacting the platforms itself such as Apple in January, however NetEase contested the request by denying the allegations. This in turn forced Bluehole’s hand into pursuing a lawsuit, seeking monetary damages and the takedown of any title that could potentially cause harm to its IP.

“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,” states the lawsuit.

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KitGuru Says: It is obvious that these titles have taken direct inspiration from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but it is in the hands of the courts to decide whether or not it unfairly detracts from PUBG’s effort in the mobile market. Where do you stand on the matter? Do you think there are just too many similarities across Rules of Survival, Knives Out and other mobile battle royale entries or is it fair game?

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