According to various press reports, on March 9, 2105, the Guangzhou Specialized IP court issued a preliminary injunction in a copyright matter, Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase versus Chengdu Qiyou Limited (“Seven Games”)，Beijing Fenbo Times Internet Technology Co., Ltd (“Rekoo”) and Guangzhou Dongjing Computer Technology Co., Ltd (“UCWeb”), regarding developing, operating, distributing and disseminating over the internet the game titled Everyone WarCraft: War of Draenor (formerly known as Chieftain Thrall: The expedition of WarCraft). The injunction calls for the above named defendants to cease reproduction, distribution and/or online dissemination of this game.
Eric Roeder, General Counsel of Blizzard is quoted in the media as saying ““We welcome the efficient and timely injunction of the Guangzhou IP Court based on Chinese…It provides a fast and effective remedy and fully demonstrates the determination and power of the Chinese courts to protect intellectual property…”
The case is notable for three factors
A) Its rarity. According to the Supreme Peoples Court, in 2013, there were 88,583 first instance civil IP cases, yet there were only 11 cases in which a preliminary injunction was accepted, and, according to the Court, “77.78%” were “granted approvals.” (Note: I can’t quite figure out how many of these 11 were granted approvals based on this percentage).
B) The importance of having an active licensee. From press reports, it appears that Blizzard and Netease have had a multi-year licensing relationship. As Chinese licensees become more interested in US content and establish collaborative relationships, I expect we will also see more strategic and path breaking judicial decisions. As Eric Priest has discussed in his work, one approach to dealing with high piracy may be finding business models that work for licensor and licensee.
C) Political timing. The desire of the newly established Guangzhou IP Court to show its authority may have been a positive factor in this case being acepted and the relief granted. Although preliminary injunctions remain rare, there appears to be an interest in clarifying procedures and, one hopes, in increasing their availability. In another important development, on February 26, 2015, the SPC issued a draft Judicial Interpretation for public comment on Act Preservation [Preliminary Relief] Measures in IP and competition civil cases. The measure seems to be directed to preliminary injunctions, but may also have an important impact on asset and perhaps evidence preservation matters. Comments are due March 30. Attached is an unofficial translation.