PUBG Mobile Dev Slaps Garena, Apple And Google With Copyright Lawsuit

Cut scene from Free Fire Max

Cloned apps can be a serious problem as developers try to protect their copyrights and revenue streams. The makers of PUBG Mobile are embroiled in that sort of struggle. Krafton and PUBG Santa Monica are suing Apple and Google over a copycat game, along with the maker of the clone and YouTube.

In 2017, the companies brought a suit against the same battle royale imitator in Singapore, claiming Garena Online infringed on PUBG copyrights with its game Free Fire: Battlegrounds. The 2017 complaint was settled out of court without granting any licenses to Garena.

Even though the developer had already been slapped on the wrist previously, and knew it had no license for PUBG’s intellectual property, it seems Garena is at it again. The same game is still in distribution on Google Play and the iOS App Store, now going by the simpler name Free Fire.

SE Asian coastal villages compared between PUBG Mobile and Free Fire
As claimed in Krafton/PUBG Mobile vs. Apple, Google, YouTube, and Garena, SE Asian coastal villages depicted in PUBG Mobile and Free Fire (click to enlarge)

On top of that, Garena published another battle royale game that Krafton says violates PUBG’s copyrights, Free Fire Max. Krafton is seeking at least $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringement, but now it’s wanting to hold Apple and Google responsible, too.

Paradrops in PUBG Mobile and Free Fire Max
Paradrops in PUBG Mobile and Free Fire (click to enlarge)

According to the complaint, Garena has earned “hundreds of millions of dollars” in global sales of these copycat games. On Google Play, the Free Fire Max listing claims more than 100 million installs. On Apple’s App Store, it’s listed at 48th place among all adventure games.

Frying pan as a weapon in both games
PUBG's iconic frying pan as a weapon in both games (click to enlarge)

Garena parent company Sea, Inc. told Polygon that “Krafton’s claims are groundless”. Nevertheless, the 100-page complaint includes screen shots alleging various game elements Krafton says are stolen straight from PUBG Mobile. These include the game’s pre-game gathering area, the parachute deployment that begins each round, a shrinking battlefield, and the way supply drops are delivered.

The frying pan as a weapon appears in both games
The frying pan as a weapon appears in both games, too (click to enlarge)

That’s not to say Krafton lays specific claim to these elements, since other games use similar characteristics. However, certain cosmetics and weapons unique to PUBG, like the welder-style helmet and face mask appearing on the game’s everyman mascot and a frying pan, also appear to be ported straight into the clone.