Riot Games sues Vietnam studio Imba Games over Teamfight Tactics lookalike

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Riot Games has Sued Imba Games for Copyright Infringement of Teamfight Tactics. Photo: Riot Games; Imba Games.
Riot Games has Sued Imba Games for Copyright Infringement of Teamfight Tactics. Photo: Riot Games; Imba Games.

Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra, Teamfight Tactics (TFT), and other spinoff titles, has sued Vietnamese mobile app developer, Imba Games, for copyright infringement.

The complaint was filed last Thursday (20 January) at the Los Angeles Federal court, alleging that the game I am Hero: AFK Tactical Teamfight, developed by Imba Technology Co Ltd copied characters, lore, gameplay, and more from League of Legends, and its spinoff, Team Fight Tactics.

Imba Games is notably under the umbrella of SUGA Pte Ltd, based in Singapore.

Riot claimed in the complaint that the game "copied paragraphs of text from 'League of Legends' verbatim, in addition to using characters with nearly identical visual designs, names, abilities, and background stories to heroes from Riot's game".

LoL's Corki, Vi, Heimerdinger, and Nami with their alleged I am Hero counterparts. (Photo: Riot Games; Imba Games/Suga Pte. Ltd)
LoL's Corki, Vi, Heimerdinger, and Nami with their alleged I am Hero counterparts. (Photo: Riot Games; Imba Games/Suga Pte. Ltd)

Some of the champions that have been allegedly copied from League of Legends are Heimerdinger, in a character named “Dinger” in I am Hero, Vi, named “Vy”, Teemo, named “Tomee”, and Nami, named Nama, among others.

Riot Games also provided images in the complaint alleging that the lore of these champions were used word-per-word.

Team Fight Tactics is an auto battler game developed and released by Riot games in June 2019. The spinoff is based on the format of Dota Auto Chess, which started as a Dota 2 custom game before growing into its own genre of game. Players go against several opponents and build a team to defeat their opponents to be the last one standing.

Additionally, the complaint claimed that the name Imba “is a nod to LoL jargon”. Imba, short for imbalanced, has been a common term used in MOBA games as far back as the original DotA mod for WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne.

Riot also claimed that Imba employees are “avid LoL players”, to the point that the company itself sponsors LoL tournaments.

As reported by Reuters, Riot sent Imba a cease-and-desist letter in December, but the Vietnamese-based company denied the allegations.

I Am Hero: AFK Tactical Team Fight was released by Imba games in 2020. Despite the allegations, the game has more than 500,000 downloads and a strong 4-star rating on Google Play.

While the reviews of the game have been generally high, some players seem to have noticed the game’s similarities with TFT, and even some characters from other titles such as Dota.

Riot is asking Imba to cease its infringement and pay the Los Angeles-based company for the “unjust profits that the Imba received from its use of Riot’s intellectual property".

Moreover, Riot wants I am Hero to be removed from sale.

This isn’t the first time that Riot Games has sued a gaming company for copyright infringement. In 2018, Tencent Holdings (Riot’s parent company) won US$2.9 million in a lawsuit against Xu Zhenhua, the CEO of Moonton, the developer of Mobile Legends.

This came after Riot had taken Moonton to court in the US in 2017, alleging copyright infringement of League of Legends, only for the case to be dismissed forum non conviens, a legal term that meant that the case would be better heard in another jurisdiction.

Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.

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