Roblox sues tech toymaker WowWee over avatar figurines

A child looks back at a banner for Roblox, displayed to celebrate the company's IPO at the NYSE is seen in New York
A child looks back at a banner for Roblox, displayed to celebrate the company's IPO, on the front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - A line of dolls based on Roblox Corp's online gaming avatars violates its copyrights and trademarks, the company said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court.

WowWee Group Ltd's "My Avastars" dolls unlawfully copy the distinctive blocky designs of player avatars in Roblox's popular game platform, and were not authorized despite WowWee's partnership with an in-game designer, Roblox said.

WowWee said in a statement Wednesday that Roblox's allegations are "completely meritless" and that it "looks forward to vigorously defending its position, product, and brand." The company also said it spent several weeks trying to resolve the dispute without litigation and had "voluntarily disassociated" the dolls from Roblox.

Roblox declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Roblox is one of the world's most popular online gaming sites and one of the first companies to focus on the metaverse. Its platform allows users to build "experiences" like games, events, and virtual places, which they visit with character avatars.

Roblox's Monday lawsuit said Hong Kong-based WowWee teamed with one of the most popular experience developers, Gamefam, to create a line of personalized dolls that match player avatars in a role-playing experience called "My Avastars: RP."

Gamefam is not a defendant in the case, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Observing the centrality of Roblox's avatars to its success, WowWee saw a chance for a quick buck," the lawsuit said, and "chose to exploit Roblox's success — its brand, its reputation, its goodwill, and its intellectual property — without ever involving Roblox."

Roblox also said it already has a deal with another company, Jazwares LLC, to make avatar dolls, and that WowWee never asked for a similar license.

The lawsuit accused WowWee of infringing Roblox's copyrights and trademark rights, breaching its terms of use, and falsely advertising that the dolls were affiliated with Roblox. It asked the court to block sales of the dolls and requested an unspecified amount of money damages.

The case is Roblox Corp v. WowWee Group Ltd, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:22-cv-04476.

For Roblox: Andrew Gass and Sarah Ray of Latham & Watkins

For WowWee: not available (NOTE: This story has been updated with comment from WowWee.)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney. Contact: 12029385713