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Lawsuits & Litigation

PUBG Maker Sues Competitor, Apple, and Google for Copyright Violations

— January 13, 2022

The lawsuit alleges that Garena Online–along with Google and Apple’s respective app stores–grossed hundreds of millions of dollars in profits using PUBG’s copyright-protected gameplay, locations, and in-game items.

Krafton Inc., the maker of the popular mobile game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG), has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Singapore-based company of creating rip-off versions of its game. The same lawsuit also claims that Google and Apple have refused repeated requests to remove the copy-cat games from their respective app stores.

In its complaint, Krafton Inc. claimed that Garena Online’s “Free Fire” imitates several copyrighted aspects of PUBG: Battleground’s, including gameplay, in-game equipment, and locations.

“Free Fire and Free Fire Max extensively copy numerous aspects of Battlegrounds, both individually and in combination, including Battlegrounds’ copyrighted unique game opening “air drop” feature, the game structure and play, the combination and selection of weapons, armor, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of color schemes, materials, and textures,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit features pictures of purportedly copied items and locations, which include an “indestructible” frying pan that can be used as both a weapon and piece of armor.

Copyright Law sign next to gavel; image by Nick Youngson, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes, Alpha Stock Images.
Copyright Law sign next to gavel; image by Nick Youngson, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes, Alpha Stock Images.

According to Reuters, PUBG—first released in 2017—was among the first and most successful “battle royale” games ever released.

In “battle royale”-style video games, players compete against others in last-man-standing-type tournaments. Since PUBG’s groundbreaking success, other popular video games franchises, including Call of Duty and Battlefield, have released their own “battle royale” multiplayer modes.

Krafton Inc. states in its lawsuit that PUBG: Battlegrounds has sold more than 75 million copies in the past four years.

However, Krafton Inc. now claims that Garena Online—owned by Singapore-based Sea Ltd.—began selling “Free Fire” through the Google PlayStore and Apple AppStore in 2017.

Last year, Krafton says, Garena released and began selling another copyright-infringing game, “Free Fire MAX.”

In its lawsuit, Krafton Inc. alleges that Apple and Google have both distributed hundreds of millions of Free Fire games, earning Garena massive profits. According to Krafton, its competitor made more than $100 million in Free Fire sales during the first three months of 2021 alone.

The complaint also names YouTube as a defendant, since the video-sharing website also hosted videos of Free Fire gameplay.

Krafton, adds Reuters, says that it has already asked Garena, Google, and Apple to stop selling Free Fire games.

Krafton claims that it has made these requests since at least December, but has yet to receive any positive response. The company now says that Garena, Apple, and Google’s alleged copyright infringement “has been willful, intentional, and purposeful,” and that Krafton is entitled to damages and attorneys’ fees.


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