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Alibaba Subsidiary Ejoy Ordered To Pay $7.2 million For Infringing NetEase’s Game Copyright

Updated: May 13


“Shuai Tu Zhi Bin” or "Invincible" is a game published in 2015 by NetEase. As many other war strategy games, players occupy the land on the map, build and upgrade construction and infrastructure, train the soldiers, and find allies to conquer other player’s land. “Three Kingdom Tactics” is a similar game which also shares some of these common mechanics. “Three Kingdom Tactics” was published in 2019 by a subsidiary company of Alibaba, Guangzhou Jianyue Information and Technology Co., Ltd (also called “Ejoy”).  Three Kingdoms Tactics is Alibaba's most lucrative game, with revenues of more than $1.97 billion since 2019.

 

In March 2021, NetEase initiated a civil proceeding against Ejoy, claiming that NetEase has copyright to 106 game regulations in “Shuai Tu Zhi Bin” and Ejoy has infringed the copyright of NetEase because these regulations are used in “Three Kingdom Tactics”. Guangzhou Internet Court recognized the main issues of this case are:

 

  • Whether the game regulations of “Shuai Tu Zhi Bin” are original so it could be protected by copyright law.

  • Whether the “Three Kingdom Tactics” used the original expression of Suai Tu Zhi Bin.

 

The court compared 106 rules in “Shuai Tu Zhi Bin” with rules of other games of the same kind and found 79 of them are original. Furthermore, the interconnections and interactions of these rules are keys to the game mechanism. In “Shuai Tu Zhi Bin”, through the interaction between the program's automatic instruction and the player’s instruction based on game rules, certain text, art pictures, music, sound effects, animation and other elements are temporarily selected by the program and presented a comprehensive audio-visual picture on the terminal screen. The combination of the game rules tells the program what to select and present. This mechanism makes these game rules original and shall be protected by copyright law. “Three Kingdom Tactics” has used not only some identical game rules themselves but also the method of their combination and interaction, which has infringed NetEase’s copyright.

 

Guangzhou Internet Court ordered Ejoy to remove or modify the 79 game rules in "Three Kingdoms Tactics" and compensate NetEase RMB 50 million (around USD 7.2 million).


Ejoy appealed on the day of publishing the first instance judgment. Now, the game industry and IP lawyers look forward to seeing who will win and claim the other's land!

 

Source: 粤0192民初7434号, YUE 0192 MIN CHU No.7434.

Authors: James Godefroy and Annie Liang

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