Roblox Corp accused WowWee Group Ltd of copying its avatars from its Roblox platform to sell dolls and metaverse code, filing a copyright and trademark suit in federal California court.
The complaint against WowWee, a Hong Kong-based toy company that originated in Canada, represents a foray into the expanding world of metaverse-born intellectual property rights. Roblox said it has registered a number of Classic Avatars as audiovisual works. Users of its platforms can further modify and customize their personal avatars.
Developers can create interactive content known as “experiences” – games, events, virtual places – on the Roblox platforms, the complaint said. That’s where users can deploy their avatars to represent themselves in the digital space. But Roblox says its terms prohibit use of its intellectual property outside its platform without its permission.
WowWee “admittedly copied Roblox’s wildly successful avatar” designs to create and sell physical dolls called My Avastars, the complaint said. It quoted WowWee executive Sydney Wiseman saying she was “looking at customization of roblox” and realised that “wow, that would be a great doll line”.
WowWee also induced top Roblox developer Gamefam to market the dolls, the complaint said. It added that WowWee and Gamefam also paired the dolls with a code that would let the buyer use the avatar on the Roblox platform’s My Avastars role-play experience, which Gamefam developed.
Roblox further alleged that Wiseman created a Roblox account and violated its terms of service. In those terms Roblox retains ownership of its Classic Avatars and modified derivatives, and prohibits use of Roblox intellectual property off the platform or for commercial purposes on it. Wiseman produced social media marketing for My Avastars dolls in TikTok videos that included Roblox intellectual property, the complaint said.
The complaint also said WowWee used the Roblox trademark to market its dolls on social media and on its website, including the My Avstars TikTok account, using Roblox hashtags.
Roblox added that when some TikTok commenters have expressed belief that WowWee was stealing the Roblox brand and could be sued, an account run by Wiseman replied with comments such as “lol we’re working with top roblox developers :)”
Causes of Action: Copyright infringement, false advertising, trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, false association and false designation of origin, interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, unfair competition.
Relief: Injunctive relief, declaratory relief, treble damages, profits, costs and attorneys fees.
Response: WowWee issued a statement calling the allegations “completely meritless”. It claimed Roblox changed its terms of service “to the detriment of the creative community” one week after WowWee announced creation of its MyAvastars dolls. WowWee said it’s been trying to resolve the dispute in good faith since receiving a cease-and-desist letter, and dissociated MyAvastars from Roblox. It accused Roblox of “using litigation as a growth strategy” and of being “an organisation driven by profit and power”.
Attorneys: Latham & Watkins LLP. – Bloomberg