Krafton, the company behind PUBG: Battlegrounds and PUBG: Mobile, has filed a lawsuit against developer Garena, alongside Apple and Google, seeking damages for what it calls “rampant, wilful copyright infringement” by a number of games available on the iOS and Android app stores it considers to be PUBG clones.
Specifically, Krafton (thanks TechCrunch) is targeting the continued availability of Garena’s Free Fire games – which it calls “thinly veiled unauthorised versions of Battlegrounds” – with the original Free Fire having already been the recipient of a legal challenge by the PUBG developer.
Free Fire: Battlegrounds, as Garena’s game was rather shamelessly known at the time of the original lawsuit, launched for mobile devices shortly after PUBG’s release in 2017 (PUBG Mobile arrived the following year) and Krafton’s initial lawsuit, which accused Garena of copying key elements of its game, resulted in a settlement between the two companies in Singapore.
Crucially, however, no licensing agreement was reached between the two parties, nor was Garena authorised to “sell or distribute games infringing [Krafton’s] copyright” in the US. As such, Krafton is now taking its legal action against Garena to US courts, targeting the original Free Fire, still available on iOS and Google app stores, and the recent Free Fire MAX.
Krafton’s lawsuit argues that as this second game offers the same user experience as its predecessor, it once again infringes on its PUBG copyright by “extensively copying numerous elements” of PUBG Battlegrounds – including its opening “air drop” mechanic, game structure and play, plus “the combination and selection of weapons, armour, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of colour schemes, materials, and textures”.
Krafton claims Garena’s allegedly copyright infringing titles have made “hundreds of millions of dollars” globally since launch at the PUBG company’s expense, and is suing Apple and Google as part of its lawsuit for refusing to pull the game from their app stores, despite legal requests to do so back in December. It adds the tech giants are directly benefitting from Free Fire’s sales given their cut of all earnings made through their respective app stores.
That’s not quite the end of Krafton’s legal targets, however; additionally, it’s suing Google for refusing to remove YouTube videos featuring Free Fire – claiming these too are infringing on its PUBG copyrights. It also says YouTube is hosting a feature-length Chinese film, titled BiuBiuBiu, that is “nothing more than a blatantly infringing live-action dramatisation of Battlegrounds”.
Krafton is seeking damages from all three parties for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement (as well as from YouTube for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement) and says it’s entitled to the profits made by Apple and Google relating to Free Fire “in amounts to be proven at trial”.
Clone titles have, of course, continued to be an issue on mobile devices, with Krafton (or PUBG Corp as it was known at the time), also having filed a lawsuit against NetEase back in 2018, accusing two of its titles – Rules of Survival and Knives Out – of deliberately copying PUBG’s gameplay and aesthetic in a bid to ‘profit from the deception’.
This week has also seen more kerfuffles over unscrupulous clones as copies of popular daily puzzle game Wordle began flooding mobile app stores, stuffing in ads and in-app purchases along the way. In that case, however, following very public criticism of all involved, Apple and Google began moving quickly to remove the clones from their stores.