Shanghai-headquartered online gaming company Youqu Network Technology Co Ltd (Uqu) was surprised to be sued for copyright infringement in 2009 even after it had already paid significant fees for licensing.
But it turns out Uqu paid the wrong company.
Following a court trial late last month, the company reached a settlement with the actual copyright holder.
The saga began in 2007 when Uqu decided to turn the best-selling comic book series Adventures of the Three Tomb Raiders into an online 3D game, so it began negotiations with the publisher, Shanghai City Comic.
A contract was then signed between the two companies and Uqu paid 2 million yuan ($309,200) to use characters, plots and images from the comic books, while City Comic also provided four volumes as basic scripts.
Uqu did not publicize development of the game until July, 2009 at the seventh ChinaJoy Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference in Shanghai, where it had a high-profile campaign at China’s gala for the digital entertainment industry.
Uqu drew the industry’s attention, including from China’s leading entertainment media company Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, which soon sued, claiming it owns the copyright on Adventures of the Three Tomb Raiders.
The lawsuit asked Uqu to “immediately stop development of the online game bearing the same name” and pay more than 100,000 yuan in compensation.
Testimony at the trial showed Shanda actually owns the copyright and City Comic is a strategic partner that only has the right to transform the novel into comic books.
The local court in Huangpu district, Shanghai ruled that City Comic could authorize a third party to use comic images and revised content, but not the entire original work.
“Considering that Uqu has invested dozens of million yuan in development of their game, we decided to withdraw the suit so they can finish the project,” said an attorney for Shanda.
But Uqu now has to pay an additional licensing fee of about 4.5 million yuan to Shanda.
It is now planning to file suit against City Comic asking for return of the 2 million yuan it paid three years ago and requesting another 5 million yuan as compensation for losses.
The game is scheduled to be unveiled in mid-July.
Two years ago, Shanda also released an online game based on the same novel, but unlike Uqu’s product, it was a 2D game focused on fighting instead of adventures.