Riot Games are suing esports company Riot Squad for trademark infringement, claiming they’re seeking to use the Riot name to grow. Stephen McArthur, The Video Game Lawyer also shares his thoughts and knowledge surrounding the situation.
Riot Games, well-known for League of Legends, has filed a lawsuit against an esports organization named Riot Squad over trademark infringement relating to the “Riot” name.
According to Liquidpedia, Riot Squad was founded only this year in March 2019. The “About” page on their website says that they are “founded by gamers, for gamers.” and are based in Chicago, IL. The organization claims that they have, in their first year, built partnerships and have signed teams across a variety of different games. These games being Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six: Seige, Fortnite, and Apex Legends.
However, the lawsuit that was filed, and has been obtained and uploaded by Polygon, shows that Riot Games are filing the lawsuit for “Infringement of Federally Registered Mark”, “False Designation of Origin”, and “Unfair Competition.” Riot Games details that they’re well-known for League of Legends and esports and, “Based on Riot’s lengthy, continuous, and uninterrupted use of its RIOTand RIOT GAMES marks, the RIOT brand has become synonymous with Riot, video games, and competitive esports leagues, teams, and competitions.”
They say that Riot Squad has “unfairly and unlawfully adopted and exploited the RIOT brand name” through marketing, advertising, and promotion. Riot Games also go on to state they believe that Riot Squad has done business under the name Riot, and that Riot Squad has a logo that emphasizes the word “Riot.” This is also brought up when stating that Riot Squad teams represent the organization with clothing that has the word, “Riot” on them.
— Riot Squad Esports (@RiotSquad) September 27, 2019
Essentially, Riot Games states they are informed and believe that Riot Squad’s use of the words Riot or Riot Squad has led purchasers, and potential purchasers, to falsely believe that they’re dealing with Riot Games themselves.
“Riot Squad intentionally used the RIOT Marks to confuse and mislead consumers into believing that its esports organization either is Riot, or is associated with, affiliated with, or sponsored by, Riot. This is particularly apparent not only due to the fact that both Riot and Riot Squad occupy the same specific sector of the video game industry, but also because Riot Squad’s apparent mission statement—to create anesports organization “by gamers, for gamers”—mirrors the guiding principle onwhich Riot was founded more than a decade ago, and with which it continues to be identified to this day.”
In light of this lawsuit, I was offered the chance to speak with Stephen McArthur, The Video Game Lawyer, a former game champion and expert in all legal matters in the video game industry. He has registered over 400 trademarks and has been lead counsel in “dozens of intellectual property federal court litigations.”
I asked McArthur about how Riot Squad are infringing the trademarks of Riot Games:
“The test for trademark infringement is whether the average member of the consuming public is likely to be mistaken or confused, even momentarily, that Riot Squad is affiliated with, sponsored, or authorized by Riot Games. This kind of consumer confusion can be trademark infringement here because Riot Games is also one of the biggest esports operators in the world. Riot Games has been instrumental in building esports as we know it from the ground up. Its 2018 League of Legends world championship had 100 million viewers, about as many viewers as the Super Bowl.
This confusion is exasperated by the fact that both Riot Games and Riot Squad often go by simply “Riot”. “Members of the public seeing an esports team named “Riot Squad” or “Riot” could easily be confused into thinking that they are authorized by, affiliated with, or sponsored by Riot Games. Adding “Squad” to the end of the name does do enough to differentiate them. It does not matter that Riot Squad does not currently have a LOL team. Both “Riots” are esports companies, and nothing would be stopping Riot Squad from creating a League team next year.”
I then asked about what legal issues Riot Squad could face should they be found to be using the Riot name intentionally. “If their infringement is found to be intentional, then that can open themselves up to triple monetary damages and also paying Riot Games’ legal fees for the lawsuit, which could be over $1 million,” he said. McArthur also highlighted what damage can be done to Riot Games if other companies such as Riot Squad use the Riot trademark to benefit themselves. “They could lose their trademark rights altogether if they let third-parties use their trademark without permission.”
Personally, I know how popular the Riot trademark is, especially on the esports front, so if you’re going to jump in and make an esports organization, you’ll know of Riot in the early stages of research.
Riot Squad hasn’t issued a statement surrounding the lawsuit and has continued to post content online as normal, so I imagine that they’re choosing to not address anything until a resolution has been reached. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any development surrounding the lawsuit and what happens next between the two companies.