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US Court Dismisses Riot Games Lawsuit Against MLBB Publisher Moonton

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After months of legal battle, the United States (US) District Court Of California officially dismissed . The court claims that this lawsuit should be resolved in China as it is unfair for both Tencent and Riot Games to file two separate lawsuits, one in China and another in the US, against Moonton until Tencent cooperates in both cases. This legal battle has been a tug-of-war between the two game titles since 2017. The courts believe that re-raising the issue in the US court is inefficient and unfair on Moonton’s part as it will lack access to evidence and witnesses to defend itself.

US Court suggests Riot Games take MLBB lawsuit to China

Back in May 2022, Riot Games filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court for allegedly copying several elements from its mobile MOBA title, League of Legends: Wild Rift. These include promotional assets, skins, User Interface (UI) designs, and more. 

A few months after the lawsuit was filed, the US court came to the conclusion that the case is better suited to be settled in China. It also did not help that Riot Games’ parent company, Tencent, refused to join the US case and provide crucial information.

Shanghai Moonton filed a “forum non conveniens” motion, requesting that the case be moved to a more appropriate court. This request was granted and the case was dismissed in US court. 

, a forum non conveniens is a common law legal doctrine through which a court acknowledges that another forum or court where the case may be brought is a more appropriate venue for a legal case, and transfers the case to such a forum.

Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald in his order wrote, “The question is whether circumstances have truly changed from those that existed in 2017 or whether Riot simply seeks a second bite at the apple, unhappy with the progress (or lack thereof) in the still on-going, parallel China litigation. The Court deems the latter to be the case.”

Ajay Krishnan, a partner at Moonton’s legal firm Keker, Van Nest & Peters, added that “For years, the parties have been litigating highly related copyright claims in China that raise many of the same issues that Riot is now trying to re-raise in the US. It would have been duplicative, inefficient, and wholly unfair to proceed with this case in the U.S., where Moonton would lack access to key evidence and witnesses.”

According to Michelle Ybarra, a partner at Moonton’s legal firm Keker, Van Nest & Peters, “Tencent documents and witnesses will be critical, particularly since Tencent and Riot’s games are close analogues of each other; and Moonton vendors and former employees will be able to testify that its game features were independently developed, not copied,”

She also added that “if the case were to proceed in the U.S., Moonton has no way to obtain that evidence.”

According to a report from , Riot Games is against this ruling and is considering other options.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s decision and especially its worrying conclusion that China is an ‘adequate alternative forum’ for a US company to pursue its claims of copyright infringement that occurred in the US. The idea of having US citizens apply for M5 visas to fly overseas in order to ask a Chinese court for relief concerning works that were both created and infringed in the US—defies common sense. On top of that, Moonton’s knock-off game isn’t even available in China. We are exploring all possible options, including an appeal,” said Riot Games, as quoted by PC Gamer.

The feud between Moonton and Riot Games/Tencent has been ongoing since 2017. It will be interesting to see if how this lawsuit is settled between the two MOBA giants.

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