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Riot Games sues another League of Legends ‘ripoff’

After shutting down a Chinese developer’s copy, another sprouts in North American app stores

Artwork of the purple monster Gloo, from Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, chasing a human character
Artwork of Gloo, from Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
Image: Moonton
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Riot Games, makers of League of Legends, is once again suing a Shanghai-based mobile games developer, this time alleging the Chinese studio is ripping off League of Legends: Wild Rift, the iOS and Android adaptation of Riot’s globally popular MOBA that launched in open beta in the spring of 2021.

The complaint was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California — the same venue where Riot sued Shanghai Moonton Technology Co. in 2018. In the earlier case, Riot sued Moonton over its game Mobile Legends: 5v5 MOBA, which Riot called a straight lift of League of Legends.

A federal judge declined to hear that case, ruling that China was a better jurisdiction to take the claim. China-based Tencent Holdings, the parent company of Riot Games, then stepped in and won a judgment, worth $2.9 million, against Moonton’s chief executive; Moonton itself was not found liable.

The latest complaint concerns a game called Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, currently available in North America in both the Google Play and Apple App Store, where it is ranked the No. 67 title in the Strategy category. Riot’s complaint begins as though the court is already familiar with Moonton, saying the U.S. company “seeks to stop Moonton from continuing its deliberate and sustained campaign to free ride on Riot’s highly valuable rights in the mobile video game League of Legends: Wild Rift and related content.”

matchmaking screen with marketing copy for a mobile game that greatly resembles League of Legends: Wild Rift
A marketing image for Mobile Legends Bang Bang from the North American Google Play store.
Image: Shanghai Moonton Technology Co. via Google Play

Riot’s lawsuit notes that, after it complained to Google and Mobile Legends was removed from the Google Play Store, Moonton surreptitiously launched Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, “a minimally tweaked version of Mobile Legends,” the complaint says. Since then, “Moonton has updated MLBB to copy extensive expressive elements from Wild Rift, continuing its cycle of knowing appropriation of Riot’s intellectual property.”

The latest action resembles a lawsuit Riot brought back in January against a Vietnamese developer, alleging that studio blatantly copied Teamfight Tactics, the auto-battler spinoff of League of Legends that Riot Games launched on mobile platforms in the spring of 2020.

Given that Riot is suing an offshore corporation, and considering the outcome of its earlier suit against Moonton, the company may have filed this lawsuit as a procedural step toward suing Moonton again in China.

Nonetheless, Riot’s complaint is extensively documented with comparisons of marketing materials, character designs, and even community reactions that allege Moonton is copying Riot’s work. Riot Games is seeking a jury trial as well as an injunction stopping Moonton from distributing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang in the United States.

Correction (May 15): An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Moonton was a defendant in a case, in China, where Tencent won a judgment. The company’s chief executive was the only defendant ordered to pay the judgment. This post has been corrected.

A copy of Riot’s suit is embedded below.

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