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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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‘Warcraft’ Makers Can’t Enter Copyright Fray

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Developers of the popular "Warcraft" video game series cannot intervene in a copyright lawsuit between fellow developers, a federal judge has ruled.

Lilith Games Co., Ltd., based in Shanghai, China, sued uCool, Inc. in March 2015, alleging the California-based company unlawfully gained access to its copyrighted software code embedded in the game "Dao Ta Chuan Qi," translated as "The Legend of Sword and Tower."

The Chinese company alleges uCool "misappropriated" 240,000 lines of code to create an identical game called "Heroes Charge," bringing claims under the Berne Convention, an international agreement concerning copyright, and California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Fellow video game developers Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Valve Corporation filed a motion to intervene in May, alleging both Lilith and uCool copied some of their best-known characters, "certain settings, terrain, background art" and other elements from their copyrighted video games "Warcraft III," "World of Warcraft," "Diablo III" and "Dota 2."

Blizzard and Valve's complaint-in-intervention asserts claims for copyright infringement against Lilith and uCool and seeks, in part, a preliminary and permanent injunction.

In their opposition, the companies said the lawsuit is still in its early stages and that the motion to intervene is untimely because "it would be prejudicial to the parties to the underlying action to allow proposed intervenors to inject new parties, claims and evidence into this matter."

U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti said on Monday that those concerns "have little to do with whether the instant motion is timely." But he denied the motion to intervene, citing Blizzard and Valve's lack of "significant protectable interest related to the plaintiff's claims."

"Lilith alleges that uCool copied its source code - a series of alphanumeric instructions read by a computer to achieve a particular operation," Conti explained. "The proposed intervenors, however, do not claim an interest in Lilith's source code. Instead, the proposed complaint-in-intervention alleges that Lilith and uCool copied 'certain settings, terrain, background art,' and other visual elements."

Conti also rejected the intervenors' motion for permissive intervention because it would "unduly delay and prejudice the adjudication of the original parties' case."

He added: "The inclusion of the proposed intervenors' additional claims would 'necessitate the consideration of extraneous legal and factual issues that [plaintiff's] lawsuit would not otherwise invoke.'"

He added that if Blizzard and Valve want to address copyright claims of their own, they can do so by pursuing their own lawsuit against Lilith and uCool.

Blizzard and Valve attorney Marc Mayer was not immediately available to comment on whether the companies plan to file separate lawsuits against Lilith and uCool.

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