Riot v. Moonton: Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Claims on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-24765,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-3.3,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.6.0,vc_responsive

Riot v. Moonton: Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Claims on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds

Riot v. Moonton: Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Claims on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds

Last summer, Riot Games, a U.S. video game company, sued Moonton, a Chinese video game developer, in the Central District of California for alleged copyright infringements.1 Specifically, Riot alleged that Mobile Legends, a mobile game produced by Moonton, which is available for downloading via Google Play and Apple Store, infringes Riot’s copyright in the League of Legends (LOL), a popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game developed and produced by Riot in 2009.2

This case was discussed a lot by online game players, and most of the discussions center on the stark similarities between LOL and Mobile Legends.3 Nevertheless, the court did not touch on the substantive legal issues related to copyright infringement. The case was dismissed on procedural grounds pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens.4 This doctrine enables a court to dismiss a case that it considers more proper for litigation in a foreign forum.5 To prevail on the dismissal over a forum non conveniens motion, the defendant needs to demonstrate that he is willing to be sued in an alternative forum that is clearly not inadequate, that the forum provides some redress for the wrong at issue, and that the balance of private and public interest factors favors dismissal.6

Here, the court found that the defendant has clearly demonstrated an adequate alternative forum, given that China has an effective copyright regime that provides some remedies for copyright infringements.7 The district court also found that although courts normally respect the plaintiff’s choice of forum, it would be grossly unfair for this case to be tried here. Riot is 100 percent owned by Tencent, a Chinese multinational company providing various internet services and products, making it Tencent’s subsidiary under U.S. law.8 Moreover, Tencent is suing Moonton in a Chinese court for similar copyright infringements claims, and there is evidence that the parent company is coordinating enforcement efforts of copyright infringements with its subsidiary.9 As the district court noted, for the case to be tried here, it would be impossible for Moonton to depose Tencent due to the Chinese prohibition of deposition pursuant to foreign litigation, and it would be practically hard for Moonton to obtain any documents from Tencent under Chinese law.10 Moonton, however, would be compelled to testify and hand over relevant documents pursuant to the U.S. rules of civil procedures. Any information used via U.S. discovery and trial may be used against Moonton in a Chinese trial over similar claims. Moreover, the court found that “the risk of inconsistent judgments and overlapping damages awards” was in favor of the case being dismissed.11

While the unique facts of this case arguably make it an easy one for dismissal, note that forum non conveniens motions may become an increasingly useful tool that Chinese companies can use to get IP claims against them dismissed in the U.S. courts. This is especially true as more and more foreign companies have been receiving favorable judgments in Chinese IP courts.12 The successful IP claims adjudicated in China certainly bolster Chinese companies’ motions of forum non conveniens in the U.S. courts.

  1. Complaint, Riot Games, Inc. v. Shanghai Moonton Tech. Co., Ltd., No. 2:17-cv-04986-MWF-SS (C.D. Cal. Jul. 6, 2017) (WestLaw, Docket 2:17CV04986).

  2. Id.

  3. CLG Lazarus, Copyright and Video Game “IP”: The Story Being Told (Feb. 11, 2017, 2:23 PM), [].

  4. Order re: Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State A Claim, or Alternatively, for a More Definite Statement; Defendant’s Motion for a Dismissal or Stay Pursuant to the Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens, Riot Games, Inc. v. Shanghai Moonton Tech. Co., Ltd., No. 2:17-cv-04986-MWF-SS, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2017) (WestLaw, Docket 2:17CV04986).

  5. Id. at 12.

  6. Id.

  7. Id. at 12-13.

  8. Id. at 5.

  9. Id. at 18.

  10. Id. at 16-17.

  11. Id. at 21.

  12. Jones Day, Foreign Companies’ Victories in Chinese Courts Support Forum Non Conveniens Motions in U.S. Courts, Lexology (Feb. 11, 2017, 2:29 PM), [].

Shuying Lin

Shuying is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.