WinZo is one of India’s largest social gaming and interactive entertainment. It has filed a lawsuit against India’s gaming unicorn ‘Mobile Premier League’ (MPL) over copyright violation.
WinZo claims that MPL has copied their game “World War’ with a similar product, in an identical format with a similar name.
They sent a legal notice to MPL. However, MPL refused to cease and desist from taking down the format which forced WinZo to file a suit seeking an injunction to restrain MPL from using the format on account of copyright infringement, passing off, and unfair competition.
WinZo said it has applied for a patent for the invention, copyright registration in relation to the expression of the Format, and trademark for ‘World War’.
The matter was heard before Justice Naveen Chawla in the Delhi High Court on 3rd June 2022.
“MPL’s counsel stated that the MPL has stopped using the mark ‘World War’ and was willing to give an undertaking that the mark ‘World War’ shall not be used with the Defendant’s game/offering,” according to WinZo.
Concerning the other allegations made by WinZo, MPL’s Counsel made a statement that MPL shall attempt to resolve the matter through negotiations with WinZo.
Intellectual property and Mobile games
There has been drastic changes and development in the gaming industry. Game companies are constantly working to innovate and stand out in the market. With the development of gaming industry, there is also a development in gaming plagiarism. This brings to the importance of protecting intellectual property in the gaming industry as IP disputes are continuing to rise globally in this field.
Games can be protected under copyright law as they fall in the ambit of “creative works”. There are certain elements in the games which are copyrightable such as the storyline, characters, music and parts of the code under the various “works” mentioned in Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957. It is also to be noted that the theme of a game is not copyrightable as the doctrine of idea vs dichotomy will prevail. The general rule says that idea has to be expressed to be copyrightable, idea itself is not copyrightable.
For example, in a shooting game, the character can be copyrighted but the same does not hold true on the idea of shooting itself . It will not restrict another shooting player’s character or a game based on shooting.
The Amendment of 1994 in the Act of 1957 included the rights of software programs. The “author” as per the act defined is someone in relation to artistic work (which is computer-generated) is the one who created it. In case of a game, code is the programming statements and instructions written by the developer. It can be protected through copyright under software programs or literary works, as the owner chooses.
There are certain elements in a game which can be protected through copyright:
- Audio elements includes the protection of sounds and music. These are the sound recordings, background music, dialogues, animation sounds, etc.
- Visual elements include the protection of artwork and visual design. These are the elements which are presented on screen.
- Software Programs include the protection of game codes. These are the elements which run the game like codes, plugins, etc.
For example, in the famous game like Mario, different elements involved such as the famous Mario tune which can be identified as the audio element. Characters of the game such as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach can be granted copyright. For instance, the gameplay in Mario which requires players to defeat enemies by jumping on them and kicking them so as to save Princess Peach from the dragon, can be protected.
In case of any copyright infringement, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s work is ‘substantially similar to the plaintiff’s work. The landmark case R.G. Anand v. Delux Films delivered by the Supreme Court deals with the concept of ‘substantial similarity’ in detail.
The court in the present case of ZinDo v. MPL will see the substantial similarity in the elements as discussed above of both the games to warrant the copyright infringement. There is a lack of judicial decisions regarding copyright in games in India. It may happen that this case can act as a precedent for the copyright infringement cases in games in India.
Stay tuned for more updates!
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