Finnish game developer Supercell has lost a recent patent infringement lawsuit. Gree, a Japanese mobile game development studio, claimed that Supercell infringed on multiple patents they hold in America. The jury agreed with the claim, finding that Supercell must pay $8.5 million for patent infringement to Gree.
As reported by Gamesindustry.biz, Gree claimed Supercell was infringing on five patents that covered:
- Improvements to city-building games and the way templates are used to define object positioning for users.
- Server mechanisms to improve player item transfers and communication.
- A touch screen control method to improve shooting related gameplay.
- Improvements to in-game item selection based on a recording and server method.
- Improvements to character card selection based on a server and control method.
If the name Supercell sounds familiar, that is for a good reason. Supercell is one of the biggest mobile phone game developers, who have released popular titles such as Brawl Stars, Clash Royale, and Clash of Clans.
Supercell being required to pay $8.5 million for patent infringement sounds like big money, right? Think again. The mobile gaming market is worth billions!
Both Supercell and Gree independently bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year from profits off their successful mobile games. Supercell is also majorly owned (81.4%) by gaming industry giant Tencent. Supercell alone earned $577 million (USD) in profits last year – and Tencent reported their annual income was $54 billion (USD).
With Supercell required to pay $8.5 million for patent infringement, you might be surprised to hear that in this case is not the first time they have faced legal problems over patent infringement. Gree and Supercell have been entangled in a series of patent infringement cases across Japan and America, with failed mediation attempts dating back to 2016.
Eaglegate Lawyers, a legal firm based in Brisbane, shared some insights on how patent infringement may impact Australian developers. As games made locally may be played internationally, developers must be aware of the legal rights that may apply across regions.
Intellectual property and commercial lawyer Nicole Murdoch shared, “…they want the game to go world wide so the question is, if a patent is granted in a popular country is that equivalent to having a world wide patent? For some industries it’s yes because the overall effect would be the same, they can’t launch worldwide, even though it is likely enforceable in that country only,” she said.
According to Ms Murdoch, in Australia, game patents are unlikely to be registered, as they are difficult to obtain. With significant financial implications for patent infringement seeking professional advice seems well worth the investment.