Judge dismisses Riot’s lawsuit against Moonton in US, says dispute should be settled in China

Riot Games' Braum, Statue of Lady Justice, MLBB's Baxter
Riot Games and Moonton have been in a long copyright infringement battle which dates back to 2017. (Images: Riot Games, MOONTON, Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Riot Games against ByteDance’s Shanghai Moonton Technology Co Ltd, according to a court ruling on Tuesday (8 November).

The said lawsuit was dismissed following the filing of a forum non-conveniens (a legal term that meant that the case would be better heard in another jurisdiction) motion by Moonton, in the two company's longstanding legal battle around League of Legends and Mobile Legends.

According to the ruling, the District Judge Michael Fitzgerald said that the dispute could be heard and settled in China, where Tencent Holdings, Riot’s parent company, is based.

Riot filed this lawsuit back in May 2022, claiming that Moonton allegedly copied content and promotional material from LoL and its other spinoff games for Mobile Legends. A previous lawsuit filed in 2017 was dismissed on the same grounds of forum non-conveniens.

“The question is whether circumstances have truly changed from those that existed in 2017,” the ruling said, or if Riot was just "simply unhappy" with the progress of the still ongoing litigation in China. The court decided that the latter was the case.

In response, Riot mentioned three allegedly “significant factual differences” from the 2017 lawsuit — that this year’s lawsuit refers to infringement different from what Tencent has previously filed and that Tencent has "consented to make a witness available".

On top of this, Riot claims that China is an “inadequate and highly inconvenient forum” because of China’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

All three arguments were rejected by the Los Angeles Federal Court, claiming that Riot probably wanted to “harness” the US judicial system, which would most likely favour them, but not Moonton.

The judge said it was "unfair to allow Riot and Tencent to bring a two-front war against Moonton unless and until Tencent decides to show up on both battlefields".

Both companies may also possibly benefit from a “double recovery” from these separate legal actions.

Riot's other arguments

Riot then raised another argument that the LoL developer is a California-based company "that can sue for infringement and obtain justice in the United States".

However, the Court reiterated that Riot is 100 per cent owned by Tencent, to the point where the parent company has been involved in developing the game in question.

While the lawsuit was dismissed, it was mentioned that "if the evidentiary hurdles in China genuinely prove fatal to certain of Riot's claims", the LoL developer can bring those to the Los Angeles Court.

When contacted by Yahoo Southeast Asia about the case, Riot Games said it was exploring "all possible options, including an appeal". Riot said it disagreed with the court's decision, "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".

Riot Games and Moonton have been in a long copyright infringement battle which dates back to 2017, when Riot had taken Moonton to court in the United states, alleging copyright infringement of LoL, only for the case to be dismissed forum non conveniens.

Then in 2018, Tencent Holdings, Riot’s parent company, won US$2.9 million in a lawsuit against Moonton co-founder Xu Zhenhua, who has since left the company (the non-disclosure and non-compete lawsuit was against Xu for US$2.9 million, not against MOONTON Games as a whole).

Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.

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