Friday, January 26, 2018

GREE sues Supercell for patent infringement while considering reputation risk

Here is another news story of patent litigation between game companies in Japan, following my previous report.

On January 23 2018, Finnish game developer Supercell made an announcement, on  Twitter and in its game application, that it got sued by Japanese mobile game company GREE for patent infringement in Japan on May 18, May 25, July 13, and July 27 in 2017, and it will delete specific features in the Japanese version of “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale” until the lawsuits become settled, though it firmly believes that it doesn’t infringe the GREE’s patents in question.

In response to this announcement, some of game users started to deliver complaints against GREE with a hashtag of “グリーを許すな (Don’t allow GREE)” and the like on social media.

Maybe GREE has been concerned damage to its reputation among game users. Next day, on January 24, GREE made a comment on the Supercell’s announcement, which interestingly includes the expressions of regret for any inconvenience the users of the Supercell’s games may experience, in addition to the backgrounder of the case. According to the GREE’s comment, GREE filed lawsuits against Supercell at Tokyo District Court for damages and an injunction against “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale”, because Supercell has infringed more than 10 GREE’s patents and also refused to have a discussion GREE has proposed since September 2016 to resolve the dispute in an amicable manner.

On the other hand, Supercell issued a brief statement again on January 25 in response to the GREE’s comment of the previous day, arguing that Supercell didn’t refuse the meeting, and actually the management team flied to Tokyo to have a meeting, seeking a “fair, reasonable and amicable solution”. After that, GREE counter-argued on the same day that it was in late December 2017 and after we filed lawsuits, when Supercell’s management visited us to have a meeting.

GREE and Supercell are spending time to argue not only in court but also outside court. It looks like that they are arguing before a jury of game users. Enforcing patent rights is legitimate right for patent holders. However, especially for game companies, it seems to be a serious problem to earn a bad reputation among game users, from a business perspective. Therefore, when taking legal action, an appropriate communication strategy could be a key factor for them to obtain understanding from the users.

By the way, GREE seems to be battling against Supercell also in the US.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point. In today's powerful social media environment, without an effective litigation communication strategy, you can win the battle and lose the war.