Riot Games recently filed a lawsuit seeking damages against Riot Squad, a Chicago-based esports organization, in the Central District of California of the United States Court.
Filed on Oct 7, the suit claims that Riot Squad is performing copyright infringement on Riot Game’s trademark. Riot further states in the suit, “This is an action for trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the federal Lanham Act, and unfair competition under California law.”
The Lanham Act, also known as the Trademark Act was passed in 1946. The U.S. federal statute that protects and designates organization’s abilities to have their own unique trademark, logo, and service mark. The statute further protects organizations from anything the court could deem to be “unfair competition”.
The suit further goes on to state that,
Riot Squad Esports LLC (“Riot Squad”) has unfairly and unlawfully adopted and exploited the RIOT brand name in connection with its marketing, advertising, and promotion of a nascent esports organization that it claims was “founded by gamers,for gamers.”
Riot Squad, founded in 2019, currently competes in the CS:GO, Fortnite, Rainbow 6 Siege, and PUBG scenes. Although the Squad does not own a League of Legends team, there are some striking similarities between this esports infant and the industry Goliath.
A main point brought up in the suit is the use of the word “Riot” in Riot Squad’s branding. Not only has the organization used the name to christen it’s organization, but it displays the word in a very similar fashion to Riot Games. Due to them both being competitors in esports, this is grounds to file under “unfair competition” in the suit.
This point was highlighted in the suit by Riot claiming that, “since the creation of Riot Squad, Defendants have done business under the names RIOT and RIOT SQUAD and have extensively promoted and advertised their organization using both of these names, sometimes (but often not) accompanied by a logo that emphasizes the word RIOT”.
In addition to the particular use of the word “Riot” the company also boasts being “by gamers, for gamers…”. A very striking resemblance to Riot Games’ assertion of being “by players, for players”.
Paying the Price
No specific amount has been disclosed for what Riot is seeking in the suit. However, it seems fairly easy to speculate that the sum will be sizable.
Riot Squad has competed in numerous high caliber matches and tournaments including “TwitchCon in San Diego, the Fortnite Champion Series, the MSIGaming Arena 2019 in New York, the ECS Pinnacle Cup, and with the NationalPUBG League in Manhattan Beach”.
All events where the organization had the opportunity to profit from winning the tournament, promoting their social media, and selling merchandise to esports fans while operating under an emphasized “RIOT” logo.
— Riot Squad Esports (@RiotSquad) September 27, 2019
This final argument in the lawsuit may be the final nail in the coffin of this young esports organization.
Not only is Riot Games seeking that Riot Squad destroy and discontinue all merchandise and uses of their brand, Riot Games is also seeking settlements to pay punitive and compensatory damages. To top it off, Riot Games is also seeking reimbursements in their legal fees for the suit.
Whether or not Riot Squad can survive this lawsuit is still up in the air. Intentional or not, it’s hard to believe the Squad didn’t see this branding choice becoming a problem.
At this time, neither Riot Games nor Riot Squad have commented on this lawsuit.
Written by Mark Pratt