'PUBG Mobile' maker sues copycat game and app stores that hosted it

This is the second time in five years that Krafton has sued Garena Online.

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An Iraqi Kurdish youth plays the PUBG video game on his mobile phone in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, on May 1, 2021. - The mobile version of the game has become so popular in Iraq that the country's youth have been dubbed the "PUBG generation", as people across the country are spending hours every day on its virtual battleground, socialising via its live chat, playing competitively, or even falling in love. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP) (Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)
SAFIN HAMED via Getty Images

When you're the progenitor of an entire gaming genre and holding the reigns of a billion dollar intellectual property, imitation, it turns out, is not the sincerest form of flattery. It's the sort of thing that gets you dragged into US federal court. And that's exactly what Krafton, maker of PUBG Mobile, is doing to Garena Online over accusations that the Singapore-based game developer has once again infringed its battle royale IP. What's more, Krafton has named Google and Apple in its complaint.

This isn't the first time that Krafton has sued Garena Online. In 2017, Krafton filed suit in Singapore over the sale of Free Fire: Battlegrounds, Garena's suspiciously PUBG-like mobile shooter, but ended up settling that case. Now, Krafton is suing Garena again, over Free Fire again, but this time in US federal court.

Krafton alleges that after settling in 2017, Garena immediately resumed selling Free Fire on both Google Play and the Apple App Store without entering into any sort of licencing agreement to use the litigated game content. Additionally, Garena started selling of another battle royale game of questionable copyright pedigree, Free Fire Max, this past September. As such, Krafton is suing Garena for copyright infringement claiming that “Garena has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from its global sales of the infringing apps," and holding both the Google and Apple marketplaces liable for damages for hosting the content. Krafton, which is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, has not specified damages outside of a statutory $150,000 per infringement. 

Copyright infringement claims like this are wildly common throughout the tech industry with legal departments constantly on the prowl for potential IP violations, be they intentional or not. For example, earlier this week, the App Store were inundated with knock-off and clones of the newly-minted hit mobile app, Wordle, prompting Apple to intercede and remove the offending iterations.     

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