Little free legal advice, if you are starting an esports org, don't name it after one of the biggest video game companies. Plaintiff Riot Games, Inc. (“Riot”) has filed a complaint with the Central District of California against Riot Squad Esports, LLC (“Riot Squad”) for trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, as well as unfair competition under California law. Riot is bringing this action to stop what they claim is a blatant and willful appropriation of their RIOT brand name by a for-profit esports team.
For those of you who don’t know, Riot is one of the largest developers and publishers of online games, particularly the immensely popular “League of Legends” (“LoL”). LoL is actually one of the most famous esports to watch and play. It is due to this widespread fame and recognition, Riot claims, that the RIOT brand has become synonymous with Riot, video games, and competitive esports leagues, teams, and competitions.
Riot Squad is a Delaware LLC, operating out of Chicago, IL. They has allegedly been using the RIOT name in connection with marketing, advertising, and promotion of their organization which was “founded by gamers, for gamers.”
Riot themselves have been trailblazers for the growing esports industry; LoL was one of the first competitive multiplayer games to spawn a professional esports league, which has been in operation for nearly a decade. LoL esports has grown so large that they are able to host an annual World Championship, in which there is a multi-million-dollar prize pool. In 2018, ~100 million people watch the Finals, which was broadcast in 19 languages and across a plethora of platforms, including ESPN, Twitch, YouTube, TNT, the SyFy network, and Facebook. Needless to say, Riot is a rather large force in the esports industry and extremely well-known. Due to their connection with LoL, Riot and the RIOT brand are also well-known. The company’s name and logo are prominently displayed on the LoL website, as well as within the game itself. With an average of 67 million players each month, it is safe to assume that Riot and the RIOT brand are a household name, even outside of the esports industry.
Riot Squad is a newer organization, founded about a year ago, that competes in games such as Fortnite, CS:GO, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Apex Legends. Riot Squad has actually competed at high-profile tournaments, including TwitchCon, the Fortnite Champion Series, etc. Whenever attending these events, Riot Squads team members will wear clothing that contains the word RIOT. Alleged by Riot in the Complaint, Riot Squad will often market and advertise the Riot Squad brand without the word “squad” and without the “Riot Squad” logo. Due to this, claims Riot, Riot Squad is effectively advertising just RIOT. Due to this, Riot has concluded Riot Squad’s advertising and promotion has caused purchasers, and will cause potential purchasers, to falsely believe Riot Squad’s products are associated with, approved, licensed, or sponsored by Riot. Riot seems justified in bringing in filing this complaint; not only do they share the same sector of the video games industry with Riot Squad, but the Defendant appears to have blatantly stole the “by gamers, for gamers” motto that Riot has used as their guiding principle for over a decade.
In the end, Riot asks the Court to enjoin Riot Squad and their affiliates from producing, selling, or advertising any products or services in connection with the RIOT Marks, as well as prohibit Riot Squad from, in any way, induce the belief that they are connected with Riot. Riot also requests that Riot Squad be paid compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages. Lastly, Riot asks for the destruction of all materials bearing the infringing marks, as well as the costs Riot incurred bringing this action.
Thanks to intern, Daniel Percy, for his research and reading a fun-filled complaint.