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UCool Ducks Video Game Copyright Claims

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge has dismissed claims that a U.S.-based video game developer illegally copied characters and "other assets" from competitors.

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Valve Corporation sued uCool, Inc. and Lilith Games Co. Ltd. for patent and trademark infringement in September 2015.

The defendants are ironically entangled in a similar lawsuit, with China-based Lilith claiming in March that uCool, a California company, stole 240,000 lines of its copyrighted software code to develop "Heroes Charge," its own version of Lilith's "The Legend of Sword and Tower."

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued an order in September denying Lilith the ban it wanted to keep uCool from selling Heroes Charge.

Lilith now finds itself on the other side of the fence - beside uCool - facing copyright infringement claims for characters, "settings, terrain, background art and other assets" of Blizzard and Valve's mutually owned "Warcraft" franchise, which includes "World of Warcraft," "Warcraft III" and other popular franchises, including "Starcraft," "Diablo" and "Defense of the Ancients," also known as "DotA" and "DotA 2."

Blizzard and Valve's Sept. 8 complaint asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions.

Acting independently of Lilith, uCool filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in October 2015, arguing the plaintiffs must make a more "definitive statement," and provide specific details about the alleged infringing characters and other assets.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in a Dec. 8 order that although the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged "ownership of a valid copyright," they cannot show "copyrightability" of its characters.

"Although plaintiffs allege that 'dozens of characters from 'Heroes Charge' are derived from and substantially similar to Blizzard and Valve's characters,' they plead no facts demonstrating that any one of the dozens of characters are plausibly copyrightable,' Breyer said in a 9-page order.

He said the plaintiffs' "conclusory" statements describing their characters as "distinctive with names, distinctive physical appearances, clothing, weapons, traits, abilities and ongoing stories" don't hold water in court and that more detail about the characters' individual characteristic are needed to make a determination of copyrightability.

"Given that the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of alleging, with sufficient detail, copyright ownership in the characters," Breyer wrote, granting uCool's motion to dismiss but giving Blizzard and Valve leave to amend.

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