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Avastars and Dolls and the Emerging Metaverse

Metaverse

Online gaming giant Roblox Corporation files suit against WowWee Group over its launch of physical dolls that imitate Roblox avatars and its collaboration with a Roblox developer, Gamefam, to create an experience for the platform called “My Avastars: RP”. The Roblox platform allows users to design avatars, which are digital manifestations of the users who visit the platform. The platform allows users to create and enjoy the game with friends as they explore digital experiences.

According to the Complaint filed in the Northern District of California, Case No. 3:22-cv-04476, the avatars, which are described as “humanoid figures with cylindrical heads, C-shaped hands, block-shaped bodies and legs, square or rounded arms, and cartoon-like facial expressions” are core to Roblox’s identity. The Complaint alleges that WowWee’s sale of toys is without permission and in direct contravention of the binding Terms of Use. These Terms of Use require the users to agree not to use certain Roblox content outside of the platform unless given permission. Roblox identified its existing relationship with Jazwares LLC, to make avatar dolls under license by Roblox and asserts that WowWee never requested a similar license. Roblox alleges that the actions by WowWee infringe copyrights and trade dress owned by Roblox in its avatars and impermissibly implied an association with Roblox through its sale and promotion of the dolls.

On August 3rd, WowWee punched back with a lengthy statement indicating that it had no intention of backing down from the fight. WowWee states that the allegations are meritless and looks forward to defending its position. According to the statement, WowWee designed the dolls “to appeal to 7–12-year-old girls, a demographic that is far too often overlooked and excluded from the metaverse” and WowWee believed that the Roblox platform encouraged collaboration with its users. WowWee states that “it intends to take a stand for the creative community.”

The claims asserted include copyright and trade dress infringement, false advertising, trademark infringement, false association and false designation of origin, intentional interference with contractual relations, breach of contract and unfair competition. There are several intellectual property considerations with this lawsuit which make it a case to follow, particularly considering the digital experiences created within the Roblox platform and the contractual relationship stemming from the online Terms of Use.

If you are interested in this topic, or any other aspects of publicity, copyright, or trademark matters, please contact me at dmdefilippis@norris-law.com.

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